North East Entrepreneurs weigh in on positive end to 2014

Entrepreneurs' Forum Business Tracker Survey shows 65% of business owners saw sales increase over the final quarter of 2014

Nigel Mills , Chairman of the Entrepreneurs Forum
Nigel Mills , Chairman of the Entrepreneurs Forum

Entrepreneurs in the North East have painted a positive picture of business conditions in the final quarter of 2014.

The results of the latest Entrepreneurs’ Forum Business Tracker Survey show a healthy 64% of business owners saw sales increase over the fourth quarter while just 26% said they remained flat.

More than half of the 300 Forum members reported that actual profit increased and 35% said levels were maintained.

Slightly more than a third said they had increased capital expenditure during the period and half said their spending had remained the same.

Job creation had obviously occurred as 53% reported an increase in employment while 35% said levels had not changed.

Pay was restrained, however, as just 30% reported an increase while 68% levels were the same.

Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “Once again, our entrepreneurial members are telling us positive things about the state of their businesses and their perceptions of the wider economy, which is good to hear.

“Confidence has reached a natural plateau, with 91% of respondents feeling either more confident, or equally as confident as they had previously felt.

“The number who felt equally confident as three months previously has risen for five consecutive quarters, from 28% to 64%. It is no surprise that the contributory factors highlighted by those who felt more confident included the falling oil prices and rising consumer confidence. Counterbalancing that for some respondents was the potential for deflationary pressures and concerns over the Eurozone.

“It is important that these surveys also highlight the barriers to growth, so that they can be understood and, where possible worked around or tackled. In the latest survey, these included resourcing, which was highlighted by 22% of respondents. However, in contrast, 41% said their workforce has grown and we are seeing more vacancies being filled.

“As we move into a period of new Government, things are looking healthy, but it is vital that whoever is in power following the election does not take the foot off the gas in terms of supporting business and creating an environment in which entrepreneurial businesses can thrive. These positive results from the survey are an indication of an ongoing process of growth, and do not highlight a job done. We need to continue to encourage and support the growth of entrepreneurial businesses.”

North Shields-based Rosewood Packaging, which has been trading for 62 years with a turnover of nearly £10m, was one of the respondents to the survey.

Sales director John Lord added his thoughts to the report, saying: “Following the recession, we had a couple of years of recovery and business adjustment, then a strong 2013, though I would describe 2014 as steadier.

“I think, because of the range of markets we supply into, we tend to be a good barometer of how the economy is performing, and whilst it has felt like a quiet start to the year, this is not a major cause for concern as activity levels can pretty much change overnight in our industry.

“The main barriers to significant growth have probably been a lack of new product demand opportunities within the market combined with rising raw material costs colliding with an ongoing downward pressure on prices.

“Customers often try to commoditise our market, but our company provides a wide range of bespoke design led products with a high level of support and customer service, rather than just supplying generic off the shelf products. Recruitment also continues to be challenging, particularly when it comes to the more skilled senior positions.”

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