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The overall number of business in the North West has been growing at record levels during 2016, according to new research by the UK insolvency trade body R3.

The figures show that there are now 20,500 additional active companies in the region than in December – an increase of 7% in just six months, compared to a 4% increase in the previous six months. The rate of growth within the North West region since December has outpaced the national average and was twice that of London, where the number of active companies has risen by just 3% during the same period.

The number of active companies in the region now stands at over 335,000. Transport remains the fastest growing sector with a 10% increase (428 additional companies), followed by the restaurant sector, where business numbers rose by 5% (222 companies) and pubs which were up by 4% (77 companies). The highest increase in numbers was in construction where there are now an additional 660 firms, a rise of 3%.

Richard Wolff, North West Chair of R3 and Head of Corporate Recovery and Insolvency at law firm JMW, said: “The rate of company formations appears to have speeded up significantly this year in the North West and in other parts of the North. In part this may due to increased business confidence in the Northern Powerhouse regions, however, it also reflects perhaps the growing spirit of entrepreneurialism.

“Attitudes have changed in recent times. There is arguably greater interest in business generally and people are certainly being more flexible in their approach to work. Going it alone and being your own boss is now a valid career choice. Meanwhile, the rise of the sharing economy, including networks such as Airbnb, Deliveroo, and Uber along with easy-to-use e-commerce platforms have opened up new possibilities. In some cases, people are running small businesses alongside their day jobs or as part of a ‘portfolio career’.

“It does remain the case that a high number of businesses fail in their first few years. While new ventures inevitably involve some level of risk, perhaps we need to find better ways to support companies in their infancy and help the new generation of business entrepreneurs to improve their financial management skills and maintain good standards of governance.”