Toughening marketplace a cause for concern - Chamber

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 12 Apr 2018

A rapidly toughening marketplace is cause for concern, a leading regionals business organisation has said, as latest performance statistics are analysed. 

The first quarter findings of Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce’s periodic economic survey found home sales and orders were markedly down, with exports on the slide too. Cash flow was also negative, with profit expectations also down. 

Chief executive Dr Ian Kelly said: “These figures are a matter of some concern with all the key sectors showing a decline in the Humber in the first quarter of the year. The Chamber is sensing a rapidly toughening marketplace for our local businesses.

“The national picture, with the exception of the export sector, is also muted despite quite strong global trading conditions.

“With more public sector cuts and interest rate increases recently, plus added up-front costs to business in the form of raw material prices, minimum wage increases, auto pension enrolment costs, business rate rises and the apprenticeship levy, the Government needs to take great care not to over-burden the capacity of our businesses to generate the growth and jobs needed to sustain economic recovery.”

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The results reinforce those for the last quarter of 2017 which came on the back of the first interest rate rise in 10 years. Itr appears that tougher trading conditions are now biting harder into our domestic and export markets.

Despite the downturn demonstrated in this quarter’s results, the employment figures brought more positive news, with three per cent more companies saying they had employed someone in the last three months, while expected employment in the next three months was also in positive territory with the number of firms saying they would be looking to recruit staff rising by 14 points.

There was a slight rise in the number of firms looking to fill skilled manual roles, up three points to 33, while management, clerical and unskilled or semi-skilled roles all fell back slightly.

The number of companies planning to invest in new plant or machinery rose by two per cent, however, the balance figure remained in negative territory at –8.

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Overheads were the biggest concern for respondents this quarter, with more than half of firms airing their concerns, while pay settlements and raw material costs were also high on the agenda.

Access to finance was less of a worry, with only a quarter of firms highlighting that as a concern, down from 37 points in the last quarter of 2017.

Business rate fears rose for the third consecutive quarter, this time up to 22 per cent, as did worries over tax increases, although interest and exchange rate fears were both down this time around, with competition remaining a constant concern.

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