Further evidence that the West of England’s economy is growing at a solid pace emerged today from the latest British Chambers of Commerce quarterly survey.
Confidence among firms in the region is running high as sales, orders and recruitment increase, according to the survey findings, which were described as a “fantastic to start the New Year” by Business West boss Phil Smith.
He said: “Confidence is high and our members are resolute in their determination to take the recovery from being good to being truly great.”
Some 114 firms from Swindon and Wiltshire were among nearly 8,000 businesses from around the UK that took part in the survey, which measures their performance across a range of indicators.
Key findings from the West region are:
- After a steady third quarter, UK sales and orders are showing positive results with 49% of respondents reporting an increase in sales, up two percentage points on the previous quarter, and 46% reporting an increase in orders, a rise of six points over the past three months.
- Employment is also strong with 32% of respondents reporting an increase in their current workforce, a seven point rise on previous quarter. Forecasts are also positive with 31% expecting to take on more staff over the coming three months. There was also an increase in the number of companies that have tried to recruit in the past quarter, rising three points to 42%. Of these, some 27% were for permanent roles – a high for the year.
- Export activity appears to have stabilised after two quarters of significant increases, with 55% of businesses reporting no change in the level of export sales and orders.
- Key concern remained competition (37%) and taxation (22%). Over the year, there was a steady increase in concerns over taxation, rising four points to 13% since the beginning of 2013.
- Lack of management time (17%) and a lack of demand (16%) remain the biggest barriers to growth, as they have been all year. Lack of skills has become more of an issue as the year has progressed, with 10% of respondents saying it is their key barrier to growth this quarter.
- Forecasts for 2014 look promising with almost three quarters expecting turnover to improve (up six points) and two thirds forecasting increased profits (also six points higher). This contributes to 74% reporting they are confident about their prospects for the coming year, rise of nine points on the third quarter and an impressive 14% increase on this time last year.
The British Chambers of Commerce quarterly survey is closely watched by the Bank of England and the Treasury as it offers an accurate snapshot of business conditions and confidence across all sectors.
This quarter it shows improvements in most key areas for both manufacturing and services with all key balances stronger than their long-term historical averages.
Business West, which acts as the region's premium business advice and lobbying group, runs the Swindon Initiative.