SOURCE: MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle

June 09, 2011 08:00 ET

U.S. Small Business Confidence Holding Steady

MerchantCircle Survey Shows Continuing but Cautious Optimism for Growth in 2011

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwire - Jun 9, 2011) - MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in the nation, today issued the results of its quarterly Merchant Confidence Index, a survey of local business owners across the country sharing their confidence levels in the current economy, and their expectations of future revenue, marketing spend and hiring. The results of the 2011 Q2 survey of nearly 5,000 local merchants indicate that business optimism is holding steady, following the jump in economic sentiment in the previous quarter that was fueled by 2010 holiday sale increases. The current MCI score is 63.2, similar to the score from the previous quarter of 63.5.

"The afterglow from improved holiday sales in 2010 continues to linger, as merchants hold on to the hope of improved revenues in 2011," said Darren Waddell, vice president of marketing at MerchantCircle. "However, the optimism remains cautious, tempered by slight declines in perceptions of economic improvement over the next 12 months and in hiring."

Key survey findings include:

Merchants remain cautiously optimistic about the economy, revenues

  • Fifty-seven percent of small business owners expect revenue to "improve" or "slightly improve" over the next three months, unchanged from the previous quarter.

  • However, when asked to rate the economy compared with 12 months ago, the percentage that believed it had stayed the same or improved dipped to 64 percent this quarter from 70 percent last quarter.

Merchant hiring, marketing holding steady

  • Over the next three months, 90 percent of merchants expect to keep headcount the same or plan to add jobs to their businesses, down slightly from the previous quarter, when 92 percent of merchants expected to maintain or increase headcount.

  • However, small business owners will continue last quarter's trend in marketing and advertising expenditure, with 85 percent of small business owners expecting to increase or keep marketing expenditure the same over the next three months, compared with 84 in the previous quarter.

About the Merchant Confidence Index

The Merchant Confidence Index is a quarterly survey conducted by MerchantCircle, the largest social network of local business owners in the U.S. with over 1.6 million members. The Index is designed to track trends in small business sentiment over time and is derived from four key questions designed to synopsize the prevailing trends among local business owners. The overall index score is based upon a standardized five-level Likert scale.

This sixth Merchant Confidence Index survey was fielded online, between April 30 and June 6, 2011, and sent to a random sample of MerchantCircle's member base of over 1.6 million local business owners. There were 4,942 total responses from local business owners across the United States. Responding businesses classified themselves as legal and financial services, automotive, health and beauty, entertainment, travel and more, with 78 percent of respondents employing fewer than five people. The survey data can be broken out by state, business type or business size (by headcount) upon request. No incentive was offered to complete the survey.

About MerchantCircle

Founded in 2005, MerchantCircle is the largest online network of local business owners in the nation, combining social networking features with a variety of free marketing tools that enable merchants to maximize their online visibility. Over 1.6 million merchants use the tools offered on MerchantCircle to create conversations with customers and connect with fellow local merchants. Local consumers can find more than 20 million business listings through http://www.merchantcircle.com or major search engines in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. In addition to its free services, MerchantCircle offers a portfolio of premium online advertising solutions including search engine marketing and instant website development.

In May 2011, MerchantCircle entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Reply! Inc., the leading marketplace for the acquisition of locally-targeted and consumer traffic. In 2010, MerchantCircle acquired TimeBridge and the popular Bloglines service to further extend its network offerings. MerchantCircle is based in Mountain View, Calif., and funded by Rustic Canyon Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Steamboat Ventures and IAC. Learn more at http://www.MerchantCircle.com.

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