Trading conditions improved considerably for Buckinghamshire businesses going into the Autumn, and more were looking to invest in their future, however, challenges remained, in particular rising costs.
The latest Buckinghamshire Business Barometer* survey results provide us with much to cheer. In the third quarter of the year (July to September 2021):
- Most businesses reported ‘normal’ or ‘better than normal’ trading conditions.
- Whilst 30% reported ‘worse than normal’ training conditions, this was down from 74% in the first three months of the year, a considerable improvement.
- There was an increase in businesses reporting ‘better than normal sales’, turnover and orders / pipeline for the time of year.
- More business told us they plan to invest in their business over the next three months than in the previous two quarters.
Triangulating the findings with other data, it does appear that Buckinghamshire businesses have weathered the stormy waters of 2020 and 2021 comparatively well.
However, getting to this point has not been easy. Many business leaders have had to dig deep to keep their businesses alive in the face of the twin challenges of both Covid-19 and EU transition, and their knock-on effects. One of the most challenging aspects of both has been increased costs, which have been added to by high energy and fuel costs in the second half of the year.
In total, approximately 65% of businesses surveyed said that their business had experienced extra costs during the period July to September (Q3) 2021. Extra costs are likely to be one of the main reason why improving sales, turnover and orders have not yet translated into increased profits.
Going into the winter, Covid-19 uncertainty is re-emerging, which may dampen the optimism businesses were feeling at the time of the survey. Whilst many are now much better equipped to deal with the challenges Covid-19 presents, those operating in sectors most badly affected (e.g. hospitality, travel and events) have begun to see customers become more cautious and therefore their hopes for a bumper Christmas period fade.
Therefore, whilst there is much to be positive about, not least how Buckinghamshire businesses have reacted and adapted to the many challenges they have faced, and therefore the extent to which the economy has bounced back, bumps are likely to still remain on the road ahead.
* quarterly survey run by Buckinghamshire LEP and Buckinghamshire Business First