Weak pound boosts ex­ports, but most Kent bosses are gloomy

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Business Kent Update -

Sales ex­pec­ta­tions were at record lows across Kent in the sec­ond quar­ter of the year, prompt­ing fears the econ­omy could be headed for a slow­down.

Only 49% of bosses an­tic­i­pated an in­crease in turnover in the next year, ac­cord­ing to the quar­terly eco­nomic sur­vey by Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce.

The fig­ure is at its low­est level since 2011.

Mean­while, a quar­ter of bosses be­lieve sales will fall over the next 12 months.

Some bosses put the weak­en­ing con­fi­dence down to un­cer­tainty over the out­come of the EU ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Profit ex­pec­ta­tions were also poor across Kent.

Just 44% of 110 re­spon­dents to the sur­vey think prof­its will im­prove over the next year, just a 2% im­prove­ment on the third quar­ter of 2016 im­me­di­ately af­ter the Brexit vote.

And 30% be­lieve their bot­tom line will worsen, with ex­pec­ta­tions at their worst since the first quar­ter of 2013.

Kent’s ex­porters were po­larised in the sec­ond quar­ter of the year af­ter dou­ble the num­ber of firms re­ported both im­proved and de­clin­ing sales.

While a near record 33% said over­seas turnover had in­creased – up from 17% – the pro­por­tion that said in­ter­na­tional rev­enues had de­creased fell to 24%, down from 12% in the first three months of the year.

The pat­tern was re­peated for over­seas or­der books, al­though it was more se­vere for those re­port­ing de­creases, up 17 points to 29%.

The numbers who said in­terna- tional or­ders had im­proved grew by seven points to 24%, ac­cord­ing to the quar­terly eco­nomic sur­vey.

The value of the pound is down 15% against the euro since the EU ref­er­en­dum in June 2016, mak­ing Bri­tish goods cheaper for for­eign buy­ers.

How­ever, un­cer­tainty over fu­ture trade ar­range­ments with Europe has prompted some con­ti­nen­tal buy­ers to search for prod­ucts else­where.

Kent bosses put a pos­i­tive spin on the re­sults.

Jo James, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce, said: “The lat­est re­sults point to a con­tin­ued pick-up in ex­port ac­tiv­ity for both ser­vice sec­tor firms and man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“The im­prov­ing growth out­look for some of the UK’s key in­ter­na­tional mar­kets and the weaker ster­ling have helped im­prove trad­ing con­di­tions for UK ex­porters.”

Becky Simms, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of digital mar­ket­ing agency Re­flect Digital, said: “The re­la­tion­ships, price points and qual­ity of goods ex­porters have are fun­da­men­tal to their suc­cess.

“There is a def­i­nite growth mar­ket for ar­ti­san, home-grown prod­ucts, such as the suc­cess of Chapel Down’s English wine.”

Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce chief ex­ec­u­tive Jo James be­lieves the weaker ster­ling has helped im­prove trad­ing con­di­tions for some UK ex­porters

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