The findings in the latest Quarterly Economic Survey by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce reveal mixed signals from businesses across the county. Chamber chief executive Justin Richardson analyses the figures.
AS THE CHIEF executive of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, I am privileged to witness first-hand the resilience and tenacity of our local business community. Each quarter, we eagerly await the findings of our Quarterly Economic Survey results, which provide a vital snapshot of our region’s economic climate. I am delighted to share with you the key findings from our recently published Q2 2023 survey.
Despite the prevailing tough trading conditions, there is a glimmer of optimism among local businesses. The survey reveals an improvement in business confidence during the second quarter of this year.
Here are some of the highlights from the survey:
- Domestic Sales and Forward Orders: Encouragingly, domestic sales and forward orders witnessed an upturn when compared to the previous quarter. Approximately 42% of respondents reported an overall increase in sales, while 36% saw an improvement in forward orders for the subsequent quarter. These figures offer hope in such tough conditions.
- Pricing Pressures Ease: In a welcomed development, the survey indicates a lessening of pressure on local companies to increase prices. Only 45% of respondents anticipate price increases, marking the lowest level since Q1 2022.
- Rebound in Cashflow: On another positive note, the survey reveals a rebound in cashflow for local businesses. Thirty-five percent of respondents noted an improvement during the period. This could provide a much-needed cushion for businesses to weather ongoing economic uncertainties.
- Recruitment Challenges: However, amid these positive developments, our survey sheds light on an ongoing concern faced by local businesses—recruitment challenges. A staggering 77% of firms looking to expand their workforce in Q2 experienced challenges in finding suitable candidates. This highlights the continued need for collaborative efforts between the business community and education to address the skills gap and foster a talent pipeline that meets the evolving needs of our businesses.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While the survey offers a glimmer of hope, the persistently weak investment intentions call for concerted efforts to stimulate business activity and foster an environment conducive to long-term growth. Addressing the recruitment challenges and ensuring a steady pipeline of talent must remain a top priority.
With weakening inflationary pressures but continuing wage concerns, there is a hope that the Bank of England will carefully consider its next steps, given their acknowledgment of the tight labour market as a significant factor in the UK’s persistent inflation.
As we move forward, the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce remains committed to supporting our members and the wider business community. We will continue to advocate for their needs, collaborate with policymakers, and facilitate meaningful connections that drive economic growth and prosperity.
Together, we can overcome challenges, seize opportunities and propel Bedfordshire to new heights of success.