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Suffolk businesses face 'pivotal' period as manufacturers battle falling sales

PUBLISHED: 11:38 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 09 July 2019

Suffolk manufacturing firms are seeing falling domestic sales, according to a survey  Picture: ROB WATKINS

Suffolk manufacturing firms are seeing falling domestic sales, according to a survey Picture: ROB WATKINS

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Suffolk's manufacturing firms are facing a glum time with falling domestic sales amid tougher global trading conditions and increasing costs.

Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce  Picture: PAUL SIMONPaul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Picture: PAUL SIMON

Latest figures from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce's Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) showed a mixed picture for the counties' businesses - particularly for the services sector - and declines in manufacturing.

The chamber's head of communications and campaigns, Paul Simon, said the county's businesses were facing a "pivotal" period.

"Whilst it is encouraging that some sectors are looking forward to improvements in their trading conditions, others are clearly not so optimistic," he said.

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"And even in those cases where there have been improvements, these seem not to outweigh the declines in the immediate preceding quarters - and so they remain weak by historical standards."

A Suffolk Chamber survey shows a mixed picture for the county's businesses as the Brexit stalemate continues  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOA Suffolk Chamber survey shows a mixed picture for the county's businesses as the Brexit stalemate continues Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

He added: "The fact that the latest QES data is so mixed, with an almost equal balance between negative and positive indices, suggests that this could be a pivotal period for Suffolk firms."

The figures, which are based on surveys from 129 firms - 32 in manufacturing and 97 in services - record the balance between those companies showing an uptick across various parts of the business, including sales, orders and jobs, against those seeing a decline.

Manufacturers reported declines in domestic sales and domestic and export orders, while export sales hang in the balance between those reporting rises and those reporting falls.

It is suspected the falls reflected running down of excess stock, tougher global trading conditions and rising upfront costs.

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Service companies saw declines in domestic orders and export sales, but small upticks in domestic sales and export orders.

Overall, Suffolk firms reported more bearish activity in this quarter compared to previous ones in terms of immediate types of activity.

However, manufacturers recorded positive movements across key criteria such as confidence in improving productivity - with a marked shift from -29% to +10% - turnover, capacity use and cashflow.

They also reported reduced difficulties in recruiting staff and increases in investment in plant and machinery.

The Brexit stalemate must not be allowed to intensify the downward pressures on business activities, Mr Paul warned, but he admitted the situation "could have been a lot worse".

"In spite of the political uncertainty the Suffolk business community remains remarkably resilient in the circumstances."

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