Research by payment and invoicing software company Square has revealed the UK’s top cities for small business growth potential.

Belfast’s Small Businesses are Booming

A new report released by Square includes a ranking of cities based on their growth potential for small businesses. The list of 15 cities was compiled by looking at regional differences including business confidence levels, growth expectations, technology adoption and infrastructure.

While Belfast heads the list, London may be disappointed to find itself down in 10th.

Square’s top 15 cities are:

  1. Belfast
  2. Nottingham
  3. Cardiff
  4. Newcastle
  5. Sheffield
  6. Edinburgh
  7. Liverpool
  8. Norwich
  9. Southampton
  10. London
  11. Bristol
  12. Birmingham
  13. Manchester
  14. Glasgow
  15. Leeds

Square’s report found that small businesses in Belfast expected, on average, to grow 41% in the coming 12 months – substantially higher than the overall UK rate of 29%.

The report also revealed that many small businesses are still wasting the opportunity to use technology to boost their productivity and growth, with fewer than half using contactless payment systems, internet-based communications tools, or software for point of sale services in most cities.

Businesses in Liverpool demonstrated the biggest appetite to start using this new technology, with 49% of them considering deploying new solutions within the next 12 months.

In regards to support, the place to be for general and technological support for small businesses seems to be the south, which has the best broadband speeds and access to a range of SME networks. Bristol has the fastest broadband speeds of the 15 cities, according to Ofcom, with an average of 33.8/Mbps.

Norwich had the most start-ups per head of population, at 167 per person, but unsurprisingly London, with its larger population, had the highest number of start-ups established last year.


Business Confidence

The research also reported on the business confidence of the 1,200+ SME owners throughout the UK. 71% of small businesses were confident or very confident about the business environment over the next 12 months, including their ability to hire, expand and invest.

Commenting on the report findings, Sarah Harvey, UK Lead for Square, said: “Much of the conversation about economic growth focuses on London and big business, but, interestingly, this research shows that it’s small businesses from all around the UK that are driving economic optimism.

“One in three Brits works for a firm with fewer than 10 employees, and these businesses are a critical part of the UK economy. However, these are companies that have historically had less access to tools and resources than their larger counterparts, making it harder for them to grow.”

“This study shows us that small business owners are feeling relatively confident about their growth potential, even during uncertain economic times. In part that’s thanks to the growth of technologies that level the playing field so businesses of all sizes and in all parts of the country have a fighting chance of success.”