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Export orders slow as firms feel the effects of global lull

Export sales re up on the previous quarter, say those businesses that responded in Bedfordshire chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey for July-September, and three out of four expect turnover to grow in the next 12 months.

However, optimism is constrained by concerns over inflation and interest rates at home as well as world stock market instability.

Firms in Bedfordshire employing more than 26,000 people took part in the survey.  Business confidence in turnover and profitability over the 12 months has remained at the high levels seen previously.

61% expect to see profits rise, which shows that Bedfordshire continues to outperform the wider economy, says the Chamber.

UK sales and advanced orders remain broadly in line with the previous surveys over the last nine months.

Maintaining the same trend as Q1 and Q2 2015, 49% of respondents reported an increase in UK sales activity, 43% remained constant and 8% saying sales had dropped in this period.

International sales have marginally increased in the period with 40% seeing a jump in export sales, a reflection of the sales forecast in Q2 but advanced order expectations for the next quarter have decreased significantly and reflect the continued global uncertainty.

Of those exporters responding, 35% expect to see orders and advance bookings to increase, compared with 43% in the previous survey.

Doubts with China’s growth forecasts and instability in the world stock markets appear to have dampened expectations, said a Chamber spokesman.

Over the past three months 39% of respondents had increased their workforce, with 72% attempting to recruit – another significant increase on the previous quarter.

Out of those businesses attempting to recruit, 70% have experienced difficulties in finding suitable staff.

Chamber chief executive Cheryl Smart (pictured) said: “The survey results continue to reinforce our April Business Manifesto findings that placed skills as the No.1 priority for businesses and seen as real constraint to growth.

"We have seen and heard that local businesses are often hampered by mismatches between the skills they need and those available in the local area.

“Member business confidence continues on an upward trend, especially when reviewing the turnover and profit expectations of respondents but there seems to be an underlying nervousness around global uncertainty, inflation and interest rates.” 

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