The UK’s recovery from recession is proving slow but steady going for small business owners, according to a survey conducted by ICM. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of UK small businesses say they are more confident now about their business than they were this time last year.

Furthermore, 64 per cent of small businesses said they would be investing in their business this year, taking the brakes off an investment freeze that last year saw only 38 per cent invest in any area of their business.

And growth is clearly back on the agenda for many. 29 per cent of small businesses plan to invest in new customer acquisition this year, compared to just 12 per cent last year. 26 per cent said they would be investing in new product or service offerings, up from 18 per cent last year.

Steve Holford, Marketing Director of Rise, who commissioned ICM to conduct the research, said: “These findings paint a picture of a small business community in flux. Clearly many are finding the road from recession an uphill struggle. But amid the concern and confusion are some reasons to be optimistic. The brakes are coming off and investment is returning in areas which are critical to growing a business, from customer acquisition to IT.”

IT was the greatest area of investment for small businesses last year, suggesting it is now seen as critical to business success. However, the nature of that investment is changing, from up front spend to more subscription-based models of IT use. In fact, 40 per cent of small businesses said up front cost was the biggest barrier to IT purchases, while only 23 per cent expressed concerns about ongoing running costs. That’s good news for companies offering hosted applications and services, or outsourcing.

Holford concluded: “Businesses are buying IT in different ways. Large up front costs such as hardware and infrastructure are increasingly being met by service providers who offer applications and services on demand for predictable, manageable subscription fees.”