Survey shows trading conditions brought slowing growth for many Bucks businesses

Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Buckinghamshire Business First’s latest Buckinghamshire Business Barometer survey shows the final quarter of 2021 brought slowing growth for many Buckinghamshire businesses as economic uncertainty continued. Trading difficulties continued for some, in many cases as a result of on-going disruption to supply chains, reduced labour availability and rising costs.

The Buckinghamshire Business Barometer* survey results show a picture of slowing growth and challenging trading conditions. In the fourth quarter of the year (October to December 2021):

  • Just over a third (34%) of those responding to the survey described trading conditions as ‘worse than normal’ for the time of year, this is up from just under a third (30%) of those saying the same for the previous quarter.
  • A slowdown in growth was seen in sales and order books/pipelines in the fourth quarter. Profits also dipped likely due to a continuation of rising costs, increasing for 63% of responding firms, which highlights continuing issues related to patterns of demand and supply chain disruption, and moreover the impact of recent national and global shocks on fuel and energy prices.
  • Just over a quarter (28%) of businesses surveyed experienced staff absences due to Covid at some point during the October to January period. The impact that staff absences had on the businesses affected included major challenges with supply chains, which led to delays on a number of projects.

 

For this quarter, the survey also aimed to ascertain how concerned businesses are about the possibility of a cyber-attack affecting their business, and what measures have or plan to be implemented to mitigate cyber-attacks. The majority of businesses (67%) that responded to the survey are somewhat concerned, however 30% of businesses haven’t implemented any security measures to protect their IT systems. Furthermore, just 17% of businesses plan to implement more security measures in the future.

Of concern are the businesses that have either not implemented security measures or those businesses (11%) that are not sure whether they implemented any security measures. This highlights a potential gap in the awareness of security measures that are recommended to protects IT systems.

However, help is at hand, Buckinghamshire Business First is offering grants to fund cyber security software, support and training to help ensure online security. The ‘Homeworking Support Initiative’ is a programme delivered by Buckinghamshire Business First and funded by Buckinghamshire Council which will award eligible businesses grants of between £500 and £2,000. For further information, please visit: www.bbf.uk.com/business-support/homeworking-support-initiative/

James Moorhouse, Economic & Labour Market Analyst at Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “These results paint a challenging trading environment for our businesses currently, however findings regarding plans for the next three months continue to be encouraging. Three quarters of firms report that they plan to invest in marketing/advertising during the next quarter, half plan to invest in digital technologies and training and development with a further 37% plan to invest in equipment and machinery.”

James added: “In addition, 31% of businesses plan to increase their headcount, 30% plan to undertake Research & Development and a quarter plan to export goods/services.”

The full Buckinghamshire Business Barometer report for quarter 4 2021 can be downloaded from here: www.buckseconomy.co.uk/business-and-innovation/business-innovation-research-reports/#Business-Innovation-Buckinghamshire-Business-Barometer

Any Buckinghamshire businesses who would like to participate in the next Barometer survey, can register their interest via info@bbf.uk.com.