Reading: Town tops league of best places to start a small business

Reading has been named the best place to set up a small business during the 2010s, according to a new study released by Informi, the website offering free practical advice and support for small businesses.

Informi studied results from key features affecting whether a place has the right ingredients for small and medium-sized businesses to succeed. It focused on the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK, judging them on the following seven factors in each year since 2010:

  • Annual business start-ups
  • Annual business closures
  • Total business stock
  • Proportion of population with an NVQ level 4 qualification or above
  • Housing affordability
  • Pollution rate
  • Overall employment rate

Reading failed to top the list in any single year since 2010, but the town never fell out of the top six when focusing on the above criteria, and it finished second in four consecutive years (2013-16). Reading consistently performed well in the number of start-ups each year, access to highly skilled workers, and its overall business stock. Brighton came second in the overall study, with Northampton in third.

London took fourth spot, being held back by high business closure figures and ranking poorly for the ratio of house prices to average wages. Other areas to have appeared in the top ten include Scottish cities Edinburgh and Aberdeen, along with seaside resorts Bournemouth and Worthing.

Steven Drew, spokesperson for Informi, said: “The number of businesses in the UK has grown steadily over the past decade – up from around 4.5 million in 2010 to 5.7 million in 2018, which is around record high levels. With well over 99% of all businesses qualifying as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it is clear that the entrepreneurial spirit in our country is higher than ever before – and our leading towns and cities are helping to facilitate this.

“As the UK enters a new decade on the verge of exiting the European Union, its future economic success will ever more rely on our small businesses providing the goods and services that consumers need, both here and abroad. It is vital therefore that areas copy the example set by the likes of Reading and Brighton in creating the right environment for small firms to survive and thrive.”

A mature business eco-system: the view from Reading

Sue Brackley, economics development manager for Reading UK CIC, said: Reading has a compelling offer to business and investors.

“We have a really balanced economy, with a lot of sectors doing well across the local area, and a very mature business eco-system. Many of our start-ups support, and in return are supported by, the mature, larger, businesses in Reading.

“Because we also benefit from one of the highest salary rates in the UK, small artisanal businesses also do really well as people are happy to spend disposable income on quality food and drink offers.”