Thursday, 07 June 2012 14:14

Overdue payments hit an all-time high

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Following on from the news that UK PLC's are sitting on a staggering £64 billion excess of capital the latest figures from Bacs Payment Schemes show overdue payments to UK SMEs are now at a record breaking all-time high of £35.3 billion.

The data was compiled at the end of 2011, and showed a £2 billion increase in late payments in the space of just six months.

Most worryingly of all the actual number of SMEs who are suffering from late payments has fallen - meaning this unparalleled burden is being shared among fewer companies.

This has taken the typical overdue amount owed to a new high too, from £39,000 in mid-2011 to £45,000 at the end of the year.

"Our research highlights the challenges faced by many thousands of SMEs in chasing payments from customers and maintaining a healthy cashflow, which is the lifeblood of any successful business," says Bacs spokesman Mike Hutchinson.

The Burdened Few

With the £35.3 billion burden of overdue payments weighing in at an all-time high, it is worrying to see that the actual number of companies suffering from late-paying clients is falling.  From 861,000 affected firms earlier in 2011, the total number dropped to 785,000 by the time the latest figures were put together.

Clearly, this hints at a widening gulf between SMEs who are able to successfully carry out their credit control and debt recovery measures, and those for whom invoicing is becoming an out-of-control administrative nightmare.uh-oh

This is reflected in other figures reported by Bacs - such as the increase in the typical period, beyond the agreed date, on which invoices are now being settled.

In mid-2011, this delay was at 28 days, effectively doubling the payment period on many monthly invoices, and adding a significant extra wait even on three-monthly or six-monthly invoices.

By the end of the year, however, it had grown further, to reach 29.6 days longer than the agreed payment terms.

Automated Payment Chasing

While it can be difficult for small firms to keep on top of their invoicing, it's one area of the administrative process that really shouldn't be neglected or left to chance.

Automating your regular payments is one solution to help make sure your firm does not suffer due to non-paying customers, while outsourcing your credit control can help to catch those who might otherwise slip through the net when they miss a payment.

Mr Hutchinson says: "Ultimately, it is an issue for businesses of all sizes to address, as prompt payment is not only good for the individual businesses involved in any given transaction, but throughout the whole supply chain."

In industries where most clients are repeat customers, with the same order size in each payment period, automated payments may be the best option; however, for many small firms, they might not be the most appropriate approach to combating late payment.

By outsourcing the credit control process even small firms can benefit from a professional approach to invoicing, and to chasing non-payers, whether they are repeat customers, or one-off clients placing their first orders.

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