Latest Quarterly Economic Survey from St Helens Chamber of Commerce reveals sales among manufacturers had moved into negative territory. Tony McDonough reports
Just 20% of manufacturers in and around St Helens were operating at full capacity in the second quarter of 2018 – sharply down from 40% in the first quarter.
The latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) from St Helens Chamber of Commerce also reveals sales among manufacturers had moved into negative territory after a “positive rebound” in Q1. Chamber deputy chief executive Tracy Mawson said firms needed more clarity on Brexit.
However, there was better news for local service sector firms with advanced orders increasing to 9% from just 2% in the first quarter.
The QES show manufacturing employment faltered at -3%, although the picture is looking more positive for service firms. Looking ahead one fifth of manufacturers and 13% of service firms plan on growing staffing levels over the next quarter.
Other key findings include:
- Plans to invest in plant and machinery and training have fallen into negative territory for manufacturers, with confidence over increasing turnover down to 12% compared to 43% last quarter
- Manufacturing firms confidence about profitability is marginally positive, but service sector firms feel more confident at +25%
- Manufacturing respondents are increasingly concerned about exchange rates, with service respondents citing competition as their main concern over the last three months
- In both sectors there is pressure to raise prices with raw material prices being a significant pressure for nearly 90% of businesses
- 6% of manufacturers reported improved export sales which was down from 44% in Q1
- 37% of service firms have reported improved export sales in Q2, up from 33% in Q1.
Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “The noted downturn in manufacturing results from quarter one is concerning, and something we will be closely monitoring. Almost half of local manufacturers export, so growing international uncertainty from escalating trade disputes to oil prices are undoubtedly a factor in this.
“Businesses need clarity on Brexit to enable them to navigate the turbulence of the next few years. Bold action is now needed from the Government to give businesses the confidence to invest and speed up the pace of growth.”