National Westminster Bank's Start-Up Index says there were 350,000 start-ups in 1993, 10 per cent down on 1992. This was largely the result of confidence in the economy tailing off in the latter part of the year.
About 25 per cent of start-ups were retail businesses - a return to the 1989 level. The number of start- ups in construction rose to 10 per cent.
Retail and construction start-ups have traditionally been a first choice for people thinking of becoming self-employed and are seen as a measure of confidence in the economy. But more than half of new business owners have no prior experience of running a company and the failure rates are high.
Jane Bradford, head of NatWest's small business services, said: 'Uncertainty has kept the start-up figures down. But we know that confidence in the small business market has improved slightly in 1994 and that this is being backed by improving sales performance.'
But the self-employed have tempered their business plans. On average, managers starting to trade for the first time in 1993 expected sales of pounds 99,000 in the first year. This was down from pounds 107,000 in 1991 and pounds 102,000 in 1992.
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