Weak pound boosts exports, but most Kent bosses are gloomy
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