Almost 1,000 Swindon businesses are in “significant” economic distress as high running costs and interest rates take their toll.

The latest figures from financial consultant Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag Alert show 901 Swindon based companies were “at risk of economic failure” in the fourth financial quarter of 2023, an increase of 18.9 per cent.

The report, which monitors the financial health of UK companies, found the key factors putting pressure on firms across the region were high interest rates and inflation, combined with weak consumer confidence and rising and unpredictable costs.

These figures come after a number of businesses left the town centre during the past year, including Marks and Spencer which closed its 112-year-old Regent Street branch.

Store owners in the town centre recently told the Adver more could be done to support businesses and reduce running costs.

Marcus Kittridge, owner of Baristocats cafe on Commercial Road, said: “Business rates need to be looked at - we're paying an extortionate amount here of £210 per square metre per year.

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon town centreSwindon town centre (Image: Newsquest)

"But also, landlords shouldn't be able to sit on empty buildings and they should be forced to keep those empty buildings in good shape to keep the area looking nice.”

Vince Ayris, who runs a shoe repair, key cutting and engraving service on Havelock Street, added: “The main thing is more support for local businesses and encourage them.

"This could include lowering business rates and VAT for them to make setting up shop more attractive."

Sectors facing the worst financial pressure include telecoms and IT, and construction, where the number of businesses in distress grew by 12.6 per cent and 13.7 per cent respectively.

Nationally, almost 540,000 businesses are in significant distress.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor in Swindon, warned this economic climate could see more companies collapse.

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon town centreSwindon town centre (Image: Newsquest)

She said: “The UK economy is in a difficult position after a challenging 12 months… as a result, we are seeing insolvency rates starting to accelerate.

“Later this year we could see some respite for companies as inflation looks like it may reach more palatable levels, which should result in interest rates starting to decrease from current heightened levels.

“That said, there are no signs of an easy fix and, with geo-political uncertainty continuing to rise and a hike in the national wage around the corner, the backdrop isn’t improving for an economy that is still firmly in recovery mode post-pandemic.

“For many businesses, I fear soldiering on in this environment will prove to be one step too far.”