Strong final quarter gives businesses cause for optimism in 2015

Lancashire businesses have reported strong growth to end 2014, according to the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) published by the Chamber of Commerce. Shrugging off recent signs of a slowdown, the manufacturing sector recorded increases in the balances for domestic sales (+33%, up from +16% in Q3), export sales (+17%, up from +10% in Q3), and workforce levels (+18%, up from +8% in Q3).

The new survey, compiled by the county’s three Chambers in association with Moore and Smalley, also shows that service sector recorded increases in the balances for export sales (+12%, up from +3% in Q3), export orders (+12%, up from neutral in Q3), training investment (+27%, up from +18% in Q3) and profitability (+50%, up from +37% in Q3).

Commenting on the results, Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber, said:

“It is particularly pleasing to see the manufacturing sector bounce back in the fourth quarter, despite signs of a slowdown in recent months. However we must aim for growth that is sustainable for the long-term. Strengthening our business finance system, which constrains the growth aspirations of too many firms, will remain a decisive factor in securing a sustainable recovery. Low interest rates and reduced regulation will also go a long way to creating an environment that encourages enterprise and wealth creation.

“The UK’s economic recovery still faces several obstacles, intensified by the uncertainty of the upcoming general election. Businesses are bouncing back, but their optimism may not last if political point scoring outweighs sound economic policies. It is imperative that all political parties use the forthcoming election campaign to outline their plans to support long-term business growth and investment.”

Stephen Gregson, Corporate Finance Director at Moore and Smalley, added:

“The ‘feel’ from this quarter’s survey is that there has been a mild, but noticeable, improvement on the preceding quarter, particularly for manufacturing.  There is a sense that our latest survey is consistent with PM’s observations at the recent G20 summit that the recovery is not without challenges and dark clouds. But we have said for some time now that a meandering recovery with a few ‘hiccups’ along the way is what we should expect.  Things could be, and have been, far worse.”

To read the full Lancashire Quarterly Economic Survey, please click here.