Report shows tough quarter for manufacturers

Tracy Mawson

St Helens Chamber says there have been some worrying reports from the town’s businesses this quarter, in response to its economic survey for the third quarter of 2019.

Domestic sales dropped markedly for manufacturing firms, as did UK advance orders.

Export sales and advance orders contracted drastically, with more firms seeing a decrease in sales than an increase, down from +29% in the second quarter to -23% in quarter three.

The last quarter wasn’t a good period for employment growth either, with manufacturers reporting a decrease in their workforce.

On a positive note, 40% of firms did attempt to recruit last quarter, however, difficulties in finding skilled, technical staff are still proving a real barrier to recruiting.

Despite these worrying results, businesses remain positive that they will see improvements.

Over the next three months both sectors intend to increase their workforce and +17% of manufacturing firms believe that their turnover will improve over the next few months, however that falls to +0% for confidence about profitability increases.

Meanwhile, +25% of services firms believe their turnover will increase, and their confidence on profitability is +14%, while 58% of firms intend to grow their business over the next two years.

Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “The responses from manufacturing businesses paint a worrying picture this quarter.

“Manufacturers recruit large numbers of local people, so their success is of utmost importance to our economy.

“This quarter we asked businesses for their views on how a no-deal Brexit on 31st October would affect their business.

“While the borough’s manufacturers, who tend to be larger firms and engage in import and export activities, uniformly showed that some detrimental effect to trading conditions was expected, there was a surprising resilience amongst other local businesses, with 45% of respondents citing they expect to suffer no impact.”

She added: “The key to minimising the impact of a no-deal situation is preparation, and it is encouraging to see firms taking the necessary steps to prepare themselves.

“Any businesses who have not yet taken steps to prepare for Brexit can get help from our business advisers.”