SME contractors see annual turnover hit by late payments

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A new survey has revealed many SME contractors have a substantial amount of annual turnover tied up in late payments

Around 15 per cent of annual turnover for SME contractors are late payments. A survey carried out by finance specialist firm Crossflow Payments revealed the figures, which showed a significant amount of small contractors have been impacted by slow payees.

According to the figures, 15.4 per cent of SMEs’ annual turnover is hit by late payments, which totals around £226bn across the sector.

This is having a significant impact on smaller firms. These companies are hedging on the side of caution when it comes to investment as a result of slow payments. In fact, the survey found 21 per cent of respondents said rather than invest they would increase their marketing and sales budgets, 21 per cent said they would hire more staff, and 18 per cent said they would increase the wages of existing staff.

Payment delays impact construction SMEs

The construction sector relies on a number of small contractors and will undoubtedly feel the pinch of late payments. In fact, this is not the first time the issue has been brought to the forefront. Last year, data from online finance firm Funding Options revealed delayed payments were damaging the growth capabilities of subcontractors and, in some cases, even threatening their viability. This research showed some subcontractors were waiting a whopping 56 days for invoices to be paid.

This new research from Crossflow Payments involved over 1,000 SMEs and found 55 per cent of SMEs who received late payments usually saw a 10-day or longer delay. Some 23 per cent said late payments were a problem for them.

Brexit

The research also highlighted the fact Brexit has heightened the problem of delayed payments. According to the data, 10 per cent of respondents said delayed payments had become worse since the EU referendum.

CEO Tony Duggan said: “Brexit is increasing the issue of late payments and reducing investment by SMEs at a time when the UK faces economic uncertainty.

“Delays in receiving payment promptly from customers is acting as handbrake on SMEs, preventing them from making key investment decisions for the future, and ultimately stunting growth. In 2017, it should no longer be the case that businesses face such hurdles.”

“Squaring the circle of working capital needs of corporates, and their suppliers, will be an increasingly important lever as business works through Brexit.

“The business community must work together in order to address this issue and explore new, innovative approaches, such as the capacity of Fintech, to help solve this issue, creating a win-win for business and government.”

Brexit certainly was an area of concern, with one in three (31 per cent) worried about the impact of negotiations on their business in the next 12 months. One in five (20 per cent) expressed concerns about currency fluctuations.

The research found that by addressing late payments 3.4 million jobs could be created, as 63 per cent of SME firms said they would hire up to five new staff members if their working capital improved.

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