The U.S. economy and consumers ended 2014 on a rather high note compared to other postrecession years. GDP growth far surpassed expectations and global performances, while low oil and gas costs boosted confidence among both shoppers and business owners.
The elevated sentiment is spreading through small business as well. As they ended the holiday season, owners responded to numerous indicators and surveys that illustrate there’s a lot of confidence in small business heading into 2015.
Expecting more sales
Small business owner confidence reached its highest measure in some two and a half years at the end of 2014, according to the December reading of The Wall Street Journal and Vistage’s monthly survey. The index was 115 in December, a year-over-year bump from 108.4 and a number that is near the highest recorded level in the survey’s two and a half year history.
When asked about 2015 forecasts, 79 percent said they expect sales to increase, 61 anticipate improved profitability and 63 foresee expanded payrolls.
CBS 2 Chicago spoke to area small business owners in a story on the WSJ/Vistage survey and found the data translated to actual sentiment.
“I am very optimistic. There are a lot of amazing things happening,” Chris Mantz, an eyewear business owner, told the station. “We’re actually hiring across all different departments right now.”
The December edition of the National Federation of Independent Business also found increased optimism at the close of the year. The index reached 98.1 on the back of a two-point month-over-month jump, and now hovers around the prerecession average and the highest it’s been since February 2007. Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist, added expectations for business increased “a huge” 16 percent and expectations for sales versus volume rose 5 percent.
Owners expected to make investments, pursue equipment leasing
An expected strengthening of business and economic conditions has owners preparing to make the most of expansion and more money flowing. The WSJ/Vistage survey found half of respondents expect higher investment volumes.
As business owners pursue equipment or funds for expansion and operations, the equipment leasing industry’s confidence grows as well. The Equipment Leasing and Financing Association’s (ELFA) December confidence index reading of 63.4 was a steady hold from November and indicated stakeholders were relatively optimistic about 2015.
“Lower energy costs will benefit consumers and small businesses,” one executive told the survey. “These are the segments of the economy that [have] been lagging compared to historical recoveries. I believe stronger spending will lift corporate revenues and, in reaction, business investment.”