Haslemere Business Barometer Q2 2019
The first Haslemere Business Barometer – a quarterly survey of business confidence – shows that overall the business community takes a balanced view of the prospects for the next three months, although there are big differences between individual businesses; some expect to grow while others believe they will shrink. Brexit and the associated political and economic uncertainty and fall-out is the dominant business concern, but some businesses are also worried about staffing, footfall and the need to attract new customers.
A total of 46 businesses operating within five miles of Haslemere centre responded to the online Business Barometer survey run by the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade and Commerce between 1 and 30 June 2019. These covered a wide range of sectors, with Retail being the largest (1/3rd of respondents). The majority are micro businesses with less than 10 staff, although two companies with over 50 employees are included.
The responses show that:
- Growth – On average, and ignoring seasonal factors, Haslemere businesses do not expect much change over the next three months. However, the situation is more dynamic than this might imply with 30% expecting to grow somewhat or a lot and 10% expecting to shrink somewhat or a lot. Overall, some change should be considered a good thing, as the mix of businesses adjust to customer needs. However, this does not detract from the pain felt by individual businesses in decline nor the implications for the ‘high street’ and local employment generally if important sectors are badly hit. The number of responses to this first survey is not big enough to tell if particular sectors are likely to be winners or losers;
- Confidence – On average Haslemere businesses are as optimistic about their prospects as they were three months ago. Again, the situation is more dynamic than this might imply with 38% being more optimistic and 16% less optimistic. There are no clear sector winners or losers, for example while retail businesses are a majority of those that are less optimistic (5/8), there are as many retailers (5) that are more optimistic than three months ago;
- Business concerns – The single biggest area of concern by some way is Brexit and the associated political and economic uncertainty and fall-out. Other areas highlighted are staffing and capacity, footfall (a retail-specific issue) and the need to attract new customers and develop new revenue streams. Few cite cost pressures as their biggest concern. For some, staffing issues are linked to the UK leaving the EU, but this is thought to be a more general problem with recruitment and retention in an area of high employment such as ours. Concerns about footfall may reflect the structural changes taking place in retail, with shopping continuing to move online.