More signs of improvements to the local economy are coming through, although the pace is still steady. That’s the message from Bradford Chamber of Commerce, following the results of its latest economic survey.
Some companies are now seeing more sales and orders coming through, although that has yet to translate itself into increased confidence, at least for now. There are also other factors that give cause for optimism: the cashflow difficulties of many firms eased a little and some even feel more confident about the chances of raising their prices in the near future. There are also some stirrings in the labour market, at least in part of the economy (service sector).
On the down side, there are no more businesses working at full capacity than in the previous quarter, and investment intentions remain the same overall (slightly up in services, but down a little in manufacturing). External costs and pressures remain a constant thorn in the side of many business people: in particular, raw materials for manufacturers and the non-specific ‘other overheads’ for the service sector.
Key points include:
- Service sector domestic and international sales: improved
- Service sector investment, equipment and training: improved
- Cashflow position improved, all sectors
- Signs of life in the labour market as more firms look to recruit
- Confidence up a little for service, but down in manufacturing
- Prospects for inflation are top concern for many firms.
Chamber President Paul Mackie said: “Businesses need to feel more at ease with the way they can and will perform in the future and that comes through confidence and more certainty. There is still a lot of volatility and pressure that combines to undermine business performance, hence the steady rather than spectacular recovery. In some ways, that’s okay, as long as they can keep bringing in the orders, manage cashflow and plan for the future.”
The survey fieldwork was complete just before Westfield announced that the Broadway shopping centre was guaranteed to get underway very soon this year. Many firms, whether in the centre or not, feel that Bradford’s poor image, often related to the city centre, is one of the key reasons holding them back.
Survey sponsor Steven Gash, who runs accountants Clough & Company, added: “We’ve seen some improvements in the latter half of 2013, albeit patchy in some ways, but that’s indicative of where we are in relation to the impact of the recession. We have to remember the terrible and dynamic impact it has had, not just nationally but internationally too. If the pace of recovery can pick up a little as we begin the new year, then that’s a good sign.”