The Most ‘Recession-Proof’ Places in Great Britain

Businesses in Great Britain are preparing for the impact of a recession. We ask: which places could be most ‘recession-proof’?

Kristina Fox Published on 16 September 2022.
Fact Checked
The Most ‘Recession-Proof’ Places in Great Britain

In today’s uncertain economic climate, it can be hard to predict how successful your business venture may be. Business confidence is down across the board, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), with enterprises expecting a tough year ahead.

Employing and retaining staff is proving difficult, while energy costs continue to rise, and Britain faces the threat of a recession that could last for up to two years.

However, it doesn’t have to be all bad news for your business ideas. At NerdWallet, we’ve constructed a list of places in Great Britain that are most likely to be ‘recession-proof’. This means places where we think businesses have the most favourable set-up for weathering an economic downturn.

Our scores are based on a range of factors including business birth rates, business survival rates and average personal monthly disposable income.

A high business birth rate could indicate a willingness for new opportunities in a town or city, while a high survival rate suggests a greater likelihood for these new ventures to make it in a tougher economic climate.

Higher amounts of disposable income suggest that consumers could still have money to spend shopping at small businesses even if their finances took a turn for the worse, as they could have a buffer to fall back on if the cost of living increased.

Another key consideration was how many businesses in each place seem ‘recession-proof’. We worked out the proportion of recession-proof businesses by taking the active business population of an area and working out how many of those were in recession-proof industries.

(industries that recovered best from the 2008 recession, according to a 2018 ONS report titled ‘The 2008 recession 10 years on’).

With these criteria in mind, let’s take a look at the top five recession-proof towns and cities in Great Britain.

Leicester

Business birth rate

13.7%

Business survival rate

37.9%

Active business population (2020)

16,765

Number of recession-proof businesses

8,200

Percentage of recession-proof businesses

48.91%

Average monthly disposable income

£1,613.77

Home to the long-lost King Richard III, Leicester takes the crown in our list of the most recession-proof places for businesses.

Almost half (48.91%) of Leicester-based businesses operate in industries defined as recession-proof. That’s the highest out of all the locations we looked at, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A burgeoning business hub, Leicester is home to many new ventures, with a 13.7% birth rate over the last five years. This is the highest out of all 25 cities on our list.

Business owners in this Midlands city may have cause to feel more optimistic about the future, even in the face of a potential economic downturn.

Bolton

Business birth rate

3.95%

Business survival rate

38.6%

Active business population (2020)

12,115

Number of recession-proof businesses

5,005

Percentage of recession-proof businesses

41.31%

Average monthly disposable income

£1,806.81

Bolton comes second in our list of recession-proof places, beating nearby Manchester by nine places.

Commerce and industry are in Bolton’s blueprint. In fact, the town is well-known for its cotton milling, which drove the development of neighbouring city Manchester.

With the highest disposable income a month (£1,806.61) out of the 25 places on our list, Bolton shoppers may have more to spend shopping at small businesses, even in the face of another recession.

Perhaps they may also find it easier to deal with unexpected costs and rising prices, when those with less available cash could struggle.

Leeds

Business birth rate

-0.07%

Business survival rate

40.8%

Active business population (2020)

34,695

Number of recession-proof businesses

13,960

Percentage of recession-proof businesses

40.24%

Average monthly disposable income

£1,226.32

Third place goes to the northern city of Leeds. Business is still booming in a city famous for its wool trade with 34,695 active businesses in 2020, according to the ONS.

Although Leeds welcomes fewer new businesses than other places, with an average business birth rate of 0.07%, new businesses do tend to stick around. The city boasts an average business survival rate of 40.80% over the last five years, the fourth highest out of the 25 places researched.

» MORE: Sources of business finance in the UK

Bradford

Business birth rate

-0.28%

Business survival rate

39.2%

Active business population (2020)

18,235

Number of recession-proof businesses

8,245

Percentage of recession-proof businesses

45.22%

Average monthly disposable income

£820.28

Another place built on the textile industry, Bradford in West Yorkshire sits just one place behind neighbouring Leeds, coming in at fourth on our list.

Bradford has the third largest proportion of recession-proof companies. 8,245 of its businesses are classed as recession-proof, which is 45.22% of the city’s total business population.

However, people living in Bradford have a relatively low amount of disposable income each month, with £820.28 available on average (19th on the list). Entrepreneurs in this Northern city may need to be savvy when it comes to getting customers to part with their hard-earned cash.

» MORE: What are the best businesses to start with no money?

Glasgow

Business birth rate

-2.91%

Business survival rate

35.6%

Active business population (2020)

22,615

Number of recession-proof businesses

9,930

Percentage of recession-proof businesses

43.91%

Average monthly disposable income

£1,525.95

Taking fifth place, Glasgow is the top-ranking Scottish city in our list (though Edinburgh is hot on its heels at number six).

Glasgow has a population of over 630,000, so it’s not lacking potential customers. And with an average of £1,525.95 in disposable income each month (fourth highest overall), consumers have money to spend – there could be ample opportunity for businesses to thrive here.

In fact, Scotland’s most populous city scored the same overall as Bradford, though with a slightly lower rate of recession-proof businesses (43.91% compared to Bradford’s 45.22%), pushing it down to fifth place.

Is London recession-proof?

You may be wondering where London sits in our list. The capital of the UK, London is a global financial centre and its large population gives businesses a huge audience to target.

However, inner London* comes in at a lowly 20th on our list of recession-proof places. With the third lowest business survival rate (33.9%), it appears that businesses in inner London may not be best prepared to make it through a recession.

Perhaps this is to do with inner London’s low amount of disposable income, with an average of £724.20 a month for customers to spend. Compare this to Bolton’s average, coming out top with almost double the amount at £1,806.81.

A recession, combined with the cost of living crisis, might drive disposable income down even further.

For small business owners in London, it could be worth looking at precautionary measures such as an emergency fund, to ‘future-proof’ against a recession or other unexpected event when consumers cut back on spending.

* Inner London comprises the following boroughs: Camden, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Islington, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, and Westminster.

What can businesses do to prepare for a recession?

Many businesses are worried about current economic uncertainty, especially with increasing energy prices and rising inflation. How can you, as a business owner, prepare for a recession?

It’s worth creating or updating your business cash flow forecast. When finances are tight, it’s important for you to know how much money is coming into your business and, crucially, when you expect to get it. This helps you to get a sense of how your business is performing, and plan pragmatically for the future.

Making a small business budget may also help. If you can work out where you’re spending too much, you may be able to cut back in certain areas and reallocate funds to improve your cash flow.

You may also consider a cash flow loan if you are looking for a short-term injection of cash to help keep your business afloat. However, you should be aware that cash flow loans can come with higher interest rates and shorter repayment times than other loans. It may be better to cut back on your expenditure instead.

» COMPARE: Business loans

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Kristina is a writer at NerdWallet. A recent graduate trading French for finance, she has experience creating content for student newspaper Cherwell and an edtech company. Read more

If you have any feedback on this article please contact us at [email protected]