Business and retail

Number, type and size of businesses in the UK

The number of businesses in the UK can be measured in several different ways, depending on what you want to count.

Estimates of the business population are produced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). These figures show the total number of private sector businesses in the UK as a snapshot on 1 January, together with information on their employment and turnover. It also adds in an estimate of how many un–registered businesses there are.

UK Business: Activity, Size and Location is a report produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and estimates the number of businesses registered for VAT and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) purposes in the UK. These figures refer to the number of businesses active on a particular day in March each year.

For figures that show the ‘birth’ and ‘death’ rates of UK businesses, the ONS have another release called Business Demography. It also presents survival rates for new businesses over the most recent five years. Again, these are restricted to VAT and PAYE registered businesses. The release covers all registered businesses that are active at any time during the full calendar year, so presents a higher estimate of the total number of active businesses than the other estimates.

A snapshot of the number of companies registered in the UK (along with information on their finances) can be found at Companies House.

Companies ceasing to exist

For whatever reason limited companies can appoint a liquidator to wind up their affairs. At the end of the process, the companies are dissolved.

Figures for the number of companies entering liquidation are published as part of BIS’s insolvencies statistics, put out every three months.

Business conditions

BIS oversees the English business survey which collates details on levels of business activity and output, exports and imports, utilisation and cost of workforces, as well as expectations for the near future.

Lending to business and individuals

Banks and financial institutions lend money to business and individuals for all sorts of reasons, whether for property purchases, mortgages, or as general credit to fund investment.

The Bank of England Trends measures how much financial institutions are lending in the UK economy. It looks at the effective interest rates people pay for different kinds of loans as well as how much banks are lending to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Mortgage lending figures are published by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. These are based on data provided by banks, building societies and other lenders who make up the vast majority of all mortgage lending in the UK.

Figures for lending by high street banks are compiled by the British Banking Association, which is the UK’s trade association for the banking and financial services sector. These figures apply only to members of the BBA.

Trade unions, tribunals and strikes

A list of all existing and former trade unions in the UK is published by the Certification Officer.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills holds information on the number of people who are members of trade unions today and over time.

The Ministry of Justice publishes statistics on the number of cases brought to Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeals Tribunal each year, going back to 2009/10.

The Office for National Statistics measures how many working days are lost due to strike action alongside its employment figures.

Retail sales

Estimates for the quantity of goods sold in UK retail, their value and which types of retail are selling better than others are published every month by the Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales series. These figures are based on financial data collected through the ‘Retail Sales Inquiry’.

Data on the number and value of retail sales online is available from the same place.

Historical figures are available back to the mid-1990s via the ONS’s key economic time series data.