According to the latest research, the majority of UK based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are optimistic about the future despite the huge challenges many businesses are facing as a result of the pandemic.

The research, which was compiled by Facebook, the World Bank and the OECD found that 60 per cent of UK SME owners were hopeful about the future, the largest amount in western Europe, alongside the Netherlands.

This figure comes despite just under half (43 per cent) of small businesses in the UK being forced to close temporarily due to the lockdown, and 58 per cent suffering a decline in sales.

Female-led businesses have outperformed their male-owner counterparts so far during the pandemic, with 64 per cent of male-led firms experiencing falling sales, compared to 52 per cent of female-run companies.

The research also found that UK small businesses are among the most digitally savvy in Europe, with more than half making more than a quarter of their sales online.

In the UK, 63 per cent of female-led SMEs make a quarter of their sales online, compared to less than half (48 per cent) of male-owned businesses.

Facebook Vice President of Northern Europe Steve Hatch said: “From fitness classes to restaurants, and beyond, small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of economies across the world — and it is vital we support them as they get back on their feet.

“These findings show a steely optimism among British business owners looking to bounce back better following Covid-19, despite how challenging the past few months have been.”