Survey shows increasing business confidence in Northamptonshire

Paul Griffiths of Northamptonshire Chamber
Paul Griffiths of Northamptonshire Chamber

Northamptonshire businesses are becoming increasingly optimistic with many recruiting staff and increasing their exports.

The results of Northamptonshire Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), which surveyed more than 100 of the county’s businesses and asked them to report their experiences of the last quarter (April – June 2013), are released today (Tuesday, July 2).

The results were separated into two industry sectors – services and manufacturing.

The survey found that companies were continuing to make the most of international markets with yet another sharp increase in the number of firms exporting – the fifth in as many consecutive quarters. A massive 73 per cent of services firms reported an increase in export sales and a further 70 per cent reported an increase in advance international orders. This follows similar figures last quarter (75 per cent export sales and 75 per cent advance export orders). In addition, 80 per cent of manufacturers reported that their export sales had increased or remained the same in the second quarter (the same as last quarter).

Sales on home soil also increased for manufacturers with 82 per cent stating that UK sales had increased or remained the same in Q2. This is up from the not so positive 56 per cent reported in Q1. However, UK sales for services firms did not follow suit, with 73 per cent of services companies reporting that they had remained the same or increased (down from 84 per cent last quarter) and 27 per cent reported a decrease.

In terms of recruitment, the picture was brighter for both sectors. Employment increased for 45 per cent of manufacturers and 23 per cent of services businesses, with the majority of these being for full time roles. Respondents were also confident of future recruitment in Q3 of 2013, with 52 per cent of manufacturers and 30 per cent of services companies expecting to employ more staff. No manufacturers expected their workforce to decrease over the next quarter.

The report also showed an upward trend in the number of companies investing or planning to invest in staff training. Thirty-four per cent of services and 38 per cent of manufacturers firms saw an improvement in investment in this area when comparing Q2 to Q1.

Financial matters also seemed to be in hand for the majority of those surveyed. Seventy-four per cent of services companies and 88 per cent of manufacturers said that their cashflow had increased or remained the same.

The most common concerns of businesses were cited as competition and corporate taxation. Manufacturers were also worried about raw material prices and exchange rates, while those in the services sector said that business rates were an issue.

Chief Executive of Northamptonshire Chamber, Paul Griffiths, said: “The results of our latest QES are hugely encouraging. To see yet another large increase in exporting activity is phenomenal. This, in addition to jobs being created and an increase in investment in the county’s workforce through staff training, is great news for our local economy.

“However, whilst it is wonderful to see our local companies employing people again, many who responded to the survey stated that they are still operating below full capacity, particularly in the services sector (services sector 71 per cent and manufacturing 44 per cent). We must not be complacent and continue to try new markets and invest in our people and businesses to create even more jobs.”