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Small Businesses Expect 2014 Holiday Sales to Surpass 2013

November 19, 2014 at 8:00 AM EST
Capital One's Spark Business Barometer Finds Businesses are Prioritizing Marketing, Technology and Improved Margins in 2015

MCLEAN, Va., Nov. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Small businesses are feeling good, anticipating a successful holiday sales season, and looking for smarter ways to market their businesses while reducing costs in 2015, according to Capital One's latest Spark Business Barometer.

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The quarterly national survey of small businesses found that a majority (57 percent) of business owners believe current business conditions are excellent or good (up 10 points from the same quarter in 2013) and that 43 percent experienced increased sales over the past six months (up from 32 percent one year ago). Nearly half (49 percent) are optimistic about the national economy in the coming year, and even more (62 percent) feel positive about their local economies. They also feel good about the coming holiday season – with 71 percent expecting consistent or better sales results compared to last year.

"This is an important time for small businesses as they prepare for the holiday season and a new year – and it's encouraging to see many are feeling optimistic about conditions and expectations, and are planning for the future," said Keri Gohman, head of small business banking at Capital One. "Business leaders are hungry for new ways to drive sales while streamlining costs. At Capital One, we're constantly innovating and delivering new tools and technology, like Spark Pay, that not only save businesses time and cash, but also help them grow and thrive."

This quarter's Barometer asked businesses about their plans for 2015, and it found their top three priorities – aside from attracting and retaining new customers – are enhancing advertising and marketing, reducing costs and expenses, and improving cash and financial management processes.

The survey also polled businesses on their plans for community investment, and found that though they tend to be focused on the bottom line, they have not overlooked the importance of giving back to their communities.  In fact, a majority of business owners (72 percent) said they would either match or increase their 2013 charitable donations this holiday season.

Following are additional highlights from the survey.

Women and millennial-owned businesses are most confident; local economies drive optimism.
As the economy continues to stabilize, women- and millennial-owned businesses tend to be more optimistic about financial conditions and business prospects, as well as the economy, compared to male counterparts and other generations.

  • Sixty-three percent of women-owned businesses feel that current economic conditions are excellent or good, compared to 54 percent of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, men are more likely to view the current business conditions negatively, with 46 percent saying they are fair or poor compared to 35 percent of women. At the same time, 21 percent of men feel their organization is in worse financial standing compared to last year, while only 12 percent of women-owned businesses have the same negative sentiment.
  • Millennials continue to remain optimistic [hyperlink to millennial infographic on IQ] and surpass all other generations when it comes to thinking positively about financial conditions. Over half (56 percent) of millennials believe that conditions will improve within the next six months and 45 percent say they are better than just one year ago. Additionally, 84 percent of millennials believe there will be more jobs at their company in 2015, compared to 65 percent of baby boomers.
  • Sixty-two percent of business owners are optimistic about local economies, up five points compared to a year ago, while just under half (49 percent) of respondents are optimistic around the state of national economy, down three points compared to the same quarter in 2013.

Businesses are focused on improving marketing and reducing costs in 2015.
Small business owners plan to focus on trimming operational costs by implementing innovative technologies and marketing strategies in 2015.

  • Thirteen percent of business owners list improving margins through better cash and financial management processes as their top business resolution in 2015.
  • Nearly one third (29 percent) of small businesses will invest in hardware and software – a solution that many utilize to reduce costs.
  • Marketing strategies will be a focus for many companies in 2015, with more than a quarter (26 percent) of business owners investing more in online advertising, and 28 percent planning to spend more on social media.

Businesses are planning to grow and invest in workforces, but retirement is not a top priority.
As the economic outlook stabilizes, small business owners plan to invest more dollars into their enterprises in 2015.

  • More than a quarter of small business employers expect to hire in the coming year. Although only 31 percent (up 2 percent from 2013) of small businesses plan to hire employees in the next six months, 41 percent of respondents expect more positions to be added in 2015.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents plan to increase employee wages and salaries in 2015.
  • One third (33 percent) expect to increase investment in employee training in the coming year.
  • Only 24 percent of small business owners currently offer retirement plans for their employees – the same percentage that offered plans a year ago.

"Business owners are seeking new ways to improve their bottom line – and we strive to help them do that with industry leading rewards like unlimited 2% cash back," said Capital One's Head of Small Business Credit Card, Buck Stinson. "At the same time, it is crucial businesses invest in their workforce and offer competitive benefits like retirement plans to attract and retain the best talent. With more than 50 percent of Americans owning or working for a small business, it's concerning to see such a low percentage of businesses offer a retirement plan today."

Capital One is committed to understanding the challenges, trends and perceptions that affect overall performance and day-to-day operations of small businesses in an effort to better serve its clients and customers across the country. Follow along on Facebook at Capital One Small Business and on Twitter at @CapitalOneSpark. Use hashtag #SparkBizBarometer to follow the conversation.

Survey Methodology
The findings reported in this release are from a telephone survey conducted by the opinion research firm, APCO Insight, the global opinion research division of communications consultancy, APCO Worldwide. APCO Insight interviewed a nationally-representative random sample of 400 for-profit small businesses in the U.S. Small businesses are defined as those with less than $10 million in annual revenue. The interviews were conducted from October 7October 17, 2014. All interviews were conducted by telephone at their places of business. One respondent per business was contacted. The margin of error is +/- 4.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Interviews were monitored at random. Sampling for this study was conducted using a national sample of businesses drawn from InfoUSA. All interviews were conducted using a computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system. Statistical weights were designed from the United States Department of Commerce to ensure proper inclusion of all SIC codes, employee size, and geography.

About Capital One
Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., had $204.3 billion in deposits and $300.2 billion in total assets as of September 30, 2014. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has approximately 900 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

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