The Chamber hosts two Area Councils, one in Worcestershire and one in Herefordshire. Each Area Council consists of 15 specialists, from different sectors, who meet six times a year to provide feedback from their respective professions. The feedback is then used to shape the policy activity we deliver to Member businesses. To get in touch with your sector representative to ensure your views are shared at the next meeting, click here.
Below is a summary of key sector updates from the latest Joint Area Council meeting.
Clients are reporting increased input costs (timber, concrete etc.) and skills shortages. EU Exitis having an impact with exporters waiting for delivery. Last year lent 30% more than usual with deposit growth of 10%. So far this year, haven’t lent any money mainly because client appetite for increased debt is down and they have the deposits they need.
Biggest issue this year has been EU Exit and getting materials into the country. Lead times have tripled, and costs are up massively. Had 4 instance of materials being damaged in transit which has never happened before. Aerospace not seeing recovery yet, automotive starting to see an increase, motorsport doing well. Power generation and oil and gas are recovering, projects put on hold are coming back. Big increases in costs of raw materials, particularly nickel.
Food and Drink
Mergers and acquisitions are very busy in the sector with some strong offers. One company in the industry have seen their online sales increase from £100,000 a year to £100,000 a month over the last 18 months. New Food Strategy Paper from the government was due on 1 July. Henry Dimbleby had been consulting with academics and organisations but not much with the food industry. There may be taxes on foods related to obesity as a result.
Pubs will be back to normal from July 19 and sport and good weather have helped sales in the alcohol sector. Challenges for sector are bottle and CO2 shortages – especially for smaller producers. Amsterdam have shut down a CO2 plant which is having an impact. Hospitality challenges are well publicised, recruitment an issue and a lot of smaller pubs will struggle to return to normal because of that. Getting back to pre-pandemic sales. Pubs changing the way their products are stocked which is helping with the bottling side of the business. Had a record month in packaging as hospitality reopens.
Marketing and Media
Sales are going well for the sector. Public sector sales are high because of available funding. Google have released new algorithms which are having an impact on Google search rankings. Businesses may notice they are further down the rankings. New changes are really focusing on content so it’s important for businesses to review their content.
Science and Medical
Market conditions very buoyant, good level of opportunity and demand. Global capacity shortage for some types of work, with long lead times. Still issues with import and export although improving. No immediate plans to change ways of working post 19 July Covid-19 changes.
Government has launched the Life Sciences Sector Vision this week. This Vision is focussed on four broad themes:
- Building on the new ways of working from COVID-19 to tackle future disease missions.
- Building on the UK’s science and clinical research infrastructure and harnessing the UK’s unique genomic and health data.
- Supporting the NHS to test, purchase and spread innovative technologies more effectively, so that cutting-edge science and innovations can be embedded widely across the NHS as early as possible, and rapidly adopted in the rest of the world.
- Creating the right business environment in the UK in which companies can access the finance to grow, be regulated in an agile and efficient way, and manufacture and commercialise their products in the UK.
Sports and Leisure
Business is excellent, record year of sales. Problem is holding enough stock, usually have £6million of stock, down to £3million. Shipping costs have increased by 500% over last 12 months. They’ve increased prices as a result, but customers are still buying. Solved EU Exit problems by sending from Irish warehouse which is working for now. Now paying $80,000 freight and duty due to continuation of Trump’s Chinese tariffs. More money being spent to do the same trade.
Transport and Logistics
Busy time for logistics in the UK. Acute driver shortage, Road Haulage Association estimate shortage of 85,000-100,000 drivers. European workers have left, fewer people entering the industry, ageing drivers. Government solution is to allow drivers to work longer which is the wrong idea and won’t help safety or attracting new people to the industry. Apprenticeships will help but they take time.
Lots of activity in buying and selling businesses. Seeing good offers coming through. Looking at International trade programmes, for example, a soft-landing programme to attract investment into the UK using overseas hubs. Also working on becoming an export advocate. Exports are valuable to the UK economy so it’s a big focus. Videos with local businesses and banks plan to show good export practice.
Clients are reporting issues with stock, materials, and staff. Businesses ability to repay loans is still good, only one or two exceptions. International travel is impacting clients and affecting people doing business. Lending this year has been fine, feels like business as usual.
Order book is good, challenge is getting products out of the door as they return to capacity. Taken on 3 new apprentices over last four weeks, looking at one more. Commercial aircraft side is coming back. Less competition in the industry because some companies have decided to close. Biggest area of concern is the car industry because we need to import batteries and the weight and cost makes that difficult.
Covid-19 has negatively impacted the industry as pubs were closed. Venues reopening fully on July 19 is good news. Labour shortages in the industry as the government were slow in implementing the Seasonal Worker Scheme. Nurseries are struggling because they aren’t covered by that scheme. The government response is to recruit local labour which isn’t easy. European nationals went home during the pandemic and are struggling to return. Retention on farms has fallen to 50% from 70% last year. HGV driver shortages are an issue too with food sometimes going rotten as a result.
Premiums are rising high in the industry. Insurers are being picky about who they insure and what is covered by insurance. Talking to clients and there are common themes with costs going up, pressure on raw materials, importing problems, transport costs etc. One major producer isn’t taking orders because they can’t get the stock. Lead times are also increasing.
IT and Cyber
Two types of cyber attack to be aware of:
A “BEC” or Business Email Compromise is where the attacker targets specific individuals, usually those who are likely to be able to authorise financial transactions to trick them in to transferring money in to a fake account. This often formulates in the guise of a supplier, client or fellow employee to look legitimate. Again, the attacker may have researched who the organisation uses for supply, or picked up the name of the CEO/organisations hierarchy in an attempt to trick the operative, the latter often being available on a company website. Whilst we all think this is obvious and a scam, believe me it’s not always the case, and with a little research this is becoming more sophisticated, and very popular! Look for things such as signed off with “Sent from my iPad” which is a lazier version because no email signature block needs replicating, anything in dollars, anything where the language style doesn’t match the sender (although this is being cloned now also) – be very aware, especially whilst people are still working from remote locations!
This is where cyber criminals learn of a vulnerability in software that has been discovered and seek to attack organisations who use that system before a fix or “patch” becomes available. Whilst I am pretty careful who I tell what to anyway, I hadn’t necessarily though to withhold particular information that salespeople or telephone surveys may ask – are they compiling data for legitimate interests or just compiling data for misdemeanours? I’ve told many a person what CRM we use or what Cloud Telephone System we have, but could someone be holding that information to use against us in the event of a software vulnerability to access our systems? Its food for thought….
This year has been quite good. Planning return to office with hybrid working. Challenges in recruitment especially software. During the pandemic have looked at their business model and made processes leaner and more efficient. Moved to self-installation of products rather than always sending an engineer because people weren’t allowed on site during Covid. Have developed online learning packages to help with that. Supply chain, problems with microchips.
Order book is full but can’t get the raw materials. They order materials when they get the order. Big brands can’t deliver and don’t even give you a delivery date. 16-18 weeks for machines but now must wait until week 20 of next year. Implications on costs. Will see much higher inflation going forward. Not seen a similar situation for 25 years. Looked at details of new travel arrangements which are making it very difficult for international business travel. Can’t make any quick decisions on international travel as a result.
Power and Utilities
Things are great for utilities. Upgrading the distribution grid is constant work. There are also lots of orders in the electrical connections sector particularly for warehouses and supermarkets. Ofgem Green Recovery Fund across the country will provide £300 million worth of investment over two years in electric vehicle charging where there are restrictions to electricity capacity e.g. motorway services needing rapid chargers. Birmingham Clean Air Zone – businesses will be thinking their fleet needs to go electric. Experiencing challenges with recruitment.
Construction costs are increasing. Industrial and warehousing supply is a struggle. Delivery of new development being slowed down doesn’t help. Not many options for businesses trying to expand. In the last couple of weeks started to struggle with more people needing to self-isolate. Residential market still strong.
We are seeing huge recruitment challenges. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation Report is showing the biggest increase of demand and lowest levels of employee availability in its history.