Independent stores and small manufacturers are bearing the brunt of a major rise in business costs, a new study suggests.

The latest Business Inflation Guide, produced by online bank More Than, shows a rise in costs for small and medium-sized businesses of almost 7% in the past year.

The 2.5% increase in costs recorded between January and March marked one of the largest quarterly rises since the guide was first published in 2005.

Vehicle maintenance and tax rose by 7.5% over the year, with fuel costs up more than 6% and office equipment up by a similar figure.

The guide, produced in conjunction with Warwick Business School, tracks the cost of the 20 most important expenditure items for small businesses.

“These figures do not make good reading for shopkeepers in the UK,” said Mike Bowman of More Than Business. “They’ve already seen revised forecasts for slower economic growth than originally predicted and these cost increases will undoubtedly test cash reserves even further.”

He added: “The price of fuel is an ongoing concern. All evidence suggests this is a cost that is only going to increase and, for many SMEs, transport is critical to the successful running of their businesses.”

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