The Chamber works closely with businesses across all sizes and sectors to ensure that business views are represented to key local and national decision makers. To ensure every sector is represented 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 inform our economic reports and shape the policy activity we deliver to Member businesses.
If you want to find out more about your sector representative or get in touch 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.
The discussion focussed on how businesses have fared during the last few months and what the outlook is for the future. There were some common points shared:
- Business confidence is increasing as the Covid-19 restrictions are set to ease. Investment and recruitment plans are recovering.
- Raw material prices are a real concern. In some cases, notably steel, prices have doubled. Shipping and oil costs are also high. Some businesses are struggling to absorb these extra costs and are having to raise prices.
- EU Exit continues to be a challenge although businesses are adapting to the new requirements. There are still shipping delays and increased costs around documentation.
Sports and leisure
Trade has been buoyant because certain types of spending aren’t possible with the current Covid-19 restrictions. The industry welcomes the news that non-essential retail should reopen on April 12. There are some problems obtaining stock from across the world and shipping costs are high, resulting in increased prices. EU Exit is still a challenge.
Transport and logistics
January and February were quieter (as usual) but the industry has been busy in March and will be in April due to Covid-19 restrictions easing. Deliveries to Ireland seem to have settled down although there are still delays and costs have doubled for pallets being sent. European imports continue to be a struggle. The Direct Vision Standard introduced in London is limiting the type of lorries that can travel in the city and lorries without a permit can be fined £550.
The impacts of EU Exit have settled down a bit as businesses have adapted to the new requirements. However, increased costs around documentation will continue and shipping costs have also increased. A big issue for the industry is high raw material prices and issues with material availability. All these extra costs mean that prices are rising.
Overall, the sector is picking up and order books are getting stronger. Business confidence is returning and investment is increasing. However, the sector faces considerable challenges. The price of raw materials is high, notably steel which has doubled in price over the last six months, and availability of materials is also a challenge. EU Exit is still causing delays and shipping costs have increased. Businesses are unable to absorb the extra costs they are facing so price increases seem likely.
The stamp duty holiday extension has boosted an already buoyant residential market. There was a natural slowdown over winter but the market has picked up again. The development sector is also strong with developers keen to acquire land and the office sector is also picking up. Warehousing continues to dominate and there is a supply shortage in the area.
The recruitment market is very busy particularly the temporary blue-collar market. Businesses are feeling more confident after the roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions was released. As restrictions are lifted, we will begin to see the impact of EU Exit on the labour market. The biggest challenge is attracting the right people. Those in permanent roles are not willing to move from their current role unless they know they are at risk.
Offline retail has had a bad year and more stores are likely to close this year leaving big holes in the high street. Retailers that do reopen face a significant increase in costs as they stay Covid secure. Online sales increased by 46% in 2020 compared to 2019 which is the highest growth since 2008. Some retailers are experiencing difficulties receiving stock from the other side of the world and freight costs are increasing. Companies unable to absorb these extra costs are having to pass them to the consumer.