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2013 was a year of continuous growth for one in three North West businesses and they plan to continue their expansion in the year ahead, according to research by the insolvency trade body R3.

Its latest Business Distress Index reveals that 37 per cent of businesses in the region have experienced ongoing growth over the last 12 months and expect that to continue, while 76 per cent have seen recent signs of growth.

Almost half (48 per cent) said they had invested in new equipment recently, while 39 per cent had increased sales and 33 per cent had increased profits. Only 13 per cent had seen a decline in sales recently while only two per cent were planning to make redundancies. The survey showed that 72 per cent had no signs of distress whatsoever – significantly above the national average of 68 per cent.

Jeremy Oddie, R3’s North West regional chair, who is also a head of recoveries at accountants Mitchell Charlesworth, said: “The recovery has been a long, drawn out and patchy but these figures indicate it is finally gathering pace. However businesses need to keep their eye on the ball. After the sustained downturn many will need to rebuild their reserves.

“The period immediately after a recession can be a dangerous time and growth brings its own risks. Some industries such as retail are also adapting to structural challenges due to changes in technology or consumer habits. Overall though, I believe we can look forward to the year ahead with cautious optimism.”