Statistics unveiled by David Littlewood at the Sheffield City Region Quarterly Economic Survey breakfast (QES) on Friday reveal that most local businesses are not feeling threatened by the prospect of Brexit.
David, who is a professor of Strategic Management at the University of Sheffield’s Management School, reported that the final quarter of the year (Q4) reflected a business confidence from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the face of uncertain times. Of the companies surveyed, only 29% of those in the service sector and 21% of those in the manufacturing sector expressed marked concern about what the impending exit from the EU could mean for them.
Over 90 businesses attended the morning meeting, which was hosted at The Source, Meadowhall, and organised by the Sheffield City Region’s four Chamber of Commerce. The event featured a panel debate about opportunities for businesses considering international trade with experts from four local businesses sharing their views.
The panel included William Beckett (Chair of the International Trade Forum), Edward Naylor (CEO of Barnsley based Naylor Industries), Chloe Watmore (General Manager at Thermotex Engineering) and David Campbell-Molloy (Senior Programme Manager for Trade & Investment at the Sheffield City Region) who shared their experiences of trading overseas and provided opportunities for local businesses to discuss overcomingg barriers and accessing opportunities to trade overseas.
The QES report revealed a positive outlook for the export market with both service and manufacturing sectors reporting increases of +15pts and +5pts respectively. Although export is down compared to Q4 in 2016, which was exceptionally high, it remains high despite ongoing national concerns about Brexit, suggesting opportunities may be growing within international markets.
This positivity appears to have spread through to other areas such as optimising capacity, where an increase in the percentage of manufacturing firms report working at full capacity compared to Q4 of the previous year. The results from cash flow were also promising, as 79% of exporters in all businesses involved in the survey reported that over the past three months cash flow had either increased or remained the same.
During the morning, delegates also received an update from David Budd, Assistant Director for Transport at Sheffield City Region, outlining key priorities for inclusive economic growth, including plans to improve Trans-Pennine connectivity and the efficiency of the local transport network.
Neil MacDonald, board member at the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“Improvements in predicted turnover and overseas activity reflect an optimism and strength among local SMEs in this quarter.
“These improvements are an interesting development that also shine a light on how Brexit might affect Sheffield City Region.
“Entering into the international marketplace can be challenging and it’s not an easy path to take. But for those businesses who choose to explore international trade, there can be considerable rewards, which are demonstrated by the progress we have made so far.”
Andrew Denniff, Chief Executive, Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce said: “The survey results show that despite relatively difficult challenges facing many local businesses, the outlook remains generally positive.
“There was a clear message from the event, illustrating not only the importance of what international business brings to our region but perhaps equally, the opportunities available within markets across the world.
“There are many services offered through local Chambers of Commerce throughout the City Region to engage in international trade, and there is plenty of guidance and support available for business owners who would be interested in trading in the global market. We must all take every opportunity available to us, whichever sector we are in and whatever our ambitions.”
The QES, supported by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Growth Hub, provides a way for the local area to influence national government policy, hence the survey enables the voices of businesses in Sheffield City Region to be heard, encouraging the development of policies that are mindful of and beneficial to the area.
The next QES survey begins on the 19th of February and runs until the 12th of March. It is open for all businesses across the Sheffield City Region to take part in. The survey can be accessed at screconomy.org.uk