Exeter Chamber Business Survey reveals uncertainty about the future despite record high increase in sales

Date: 
7 Jul 2017
Details: 

Exeter Chamber of Commerce’s latest business survey has revealed a startling contradiction - that despite a record number of businesses reporting increased sales, the impact of long-term, ongoing, political and economic uncertainty is negatively impacting business confidence for the future.

Key findings:

  • Highest number of businesses reporting sales growth since records began in 2000
  • Uncertainty for future following General Election and Brexit negotiations
  • Growth in Exeter believed to buck national trends

Of the businesses surveyed a record-breaking 69% recorded an increase in sales alongside an unprecedented 50% reporting an increase in the number of people they employ in the last quarter. Despite this, only 12% of respondents rated high ‘Business Confidence’ for the immediate future; the lowest figure since 2010.

Derek Phillips, vice president of Exeter Chamber of Commerce and chair of the panel meeting, suggests; “Strong results in sales and employment figures usually go hand in hand with high confidence for the future.  The figures show Exeter is continuing to show growth in most sectors but the uncertainty, following the General Election, is a worrying factor, particularly with respect to future investment plans.”

Panel attendees at the meeting, reflected this view, with a number of factors arising from both the General Election and Brexit negotiations impacting businesses:

  • Uncertainty over what funding, if any, will replace EU funding streams for business growth and development, and the agriculture and tourism sectors particularly.
  • Businesses are foreseeing major challenges in the labour market, particularly in agriculture, retail, logistics, hospitality and tourism, owing to both weakened pound and political environment
  • Further employment challenges are represented by inward investment, with large numbers of people being recruited by Lidl and Ikea.
  • The fall in the pound has bolstered the ‘staycation market’, with tourism businesses in Exeter and the surrounding regions seeing record levels of visitors, at over 90% occupancy
  • Consumer confidence nationally is reported to be falling, but this is yet to be reflected in the city’s retail performance

Julie Hawker, joint chief executive of ethical IT business Cosmic said; “Reflecting on the recent indications about current growth but future uncertainty from local businesses, it’s not really that surprising. The local trading situation feels strong with plenty of sales, new customers and relationship to be won, but match that against the national and political turmoil and businesses are finding it difficult to make strategic plans. Certainly, the recently agreed investment in business support and skills development made possible by EU funding streams bring golden opportunities for businesses to invest and develop in the short-term, and in ways which will definitely pay-off in the long-term.”

Mark Pellow, managing director of property consultants, Vickery Holman said: ‘These results are very interesting as they show the ongoing success of Exeter as a business location, with many firms reporting very good trading over the last few months.  Business confidence in the property market did show a drop in the immediate fallout from the General Election, we lost a commercial property investment deal a few days after the Election because of the buyer’s related concerns.  However, the evidence of the last couple of weeks does suggest the market in this region remains robust, with several major property deals completed by Vickery Holman only in the last week!   We also have not seen any fall off in our property loan security valuations, again suggesting most businesses are just getting on with things despite the uncertain background’

The full survey results can be viewed on the Exeter Chamber website – www.exeterchamber.co.uk/exeter-business-survey

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