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Resilience of Thames Valley businesses is being tested, says Chamber of Commerce

The resilience of businesses in the Thames Valley region is being tested by tough economic conditions, according to the findings of the latest Quarterly Economic Survey from Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The number of businesses from the region seeing a decrease in sales went up in Q3, as did the number of businesses who told the survey they expected turnover to decrease over the next three months.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce – the umbrella organisation that represents 55 accredited Chambers in the UK – was in Reading on Monday (October 17) a briefing about the results of the survey.

Experts from the British Chambers of Commerce and from tax and accountancy firm BDO were on hand to interpret the results, which made for less than encouraging reading.

“Over the last two years the Quarterly Economic Survey results have shown the Thames Valley to be a very resilient region,” said Clare Hawthorn, business services and outsourcing director at BDO.

“However, it appears that resiliency is now being tested, with some statistics starting to see a downward turn.”

Key results included:

  • Fourteen per cent of businesses reported a decrease in sales – up four per cent on Quarter 2
  • Fifteen per cent expected their turnover to drop over the next three months – up six per cent on the previous quarter
  • Fifty-three per cent of businesses expect to raise their prices in the next three months
  • Eighty per cent were having trouble recruiting staff – up 10 per cent on the last report
  • Eight per cent expected the size of their workforce to decrease over the next few months
  • Eighty-eight per cent of Thames Valley businesses cited inflation as their primary concern.

“Although these figures may cause some alarm, there is some stability, and even optimism, across other areas of the survey,” said Clare.

“A greater number of businesses saw their international sales and advanced orders either increase or remain the same, and there was no movement in the percentage of businesses which saw their advanced domestic orders decrease (12 per cent).

“The same can be said with cashflow, with 80 per cent reporting no decrease in this, matching the Q2 results, and planned investment in training remains unaffected, for now.

“The next three months are crucial to how Thames Valley businesses will progress across the next calendar year.

“This could potentially be a tipping point where optimism across the region becomes a thing of the past, but given the resilience shown across these very difficult, recent years, let’s hope that the region continues that success into 2023.”

Paul Britton, CEO of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is not surprising to see that inflation is once again the top external factor for businesses.

“With growing pressures in the form of significant shortages of people and materials, rising costs of energy, materials and shipping, together these issues are knocking confidence to investment.

“We need to see economic stability across the region and beyond, to start to rebuild the confidence to invest.”

Shevaun (pictured), who followed the Quarterly Economic Survey briefing at the headquarters of BDO – hosted by Tim Major of Swindon Chamber of Commerce – with a visit to the University of Reading said: ” There are lots of challenges, but many reasons to be optimistic.”

The Quarterly Business Survey is Britain’s biggest and longest-running private business survey and has provided data since 1989.

The survey, a leading indicator, often picks up changes in the economy long before other surveys and official statistics and consistently mirrors trends in official data. It remains closely watched by both UK Government and the Bank of England.

The Q3 survey ran from August 22 to September 12.

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