Milton Keynes firms starting New Year with renewed optimism

MPMC Paul Griffiths chief executive, Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce
MPMC Paul Griffiths chief executive, Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce

Businesses in Milton Keynes feel positive about the year ahead with more firms continuing to show confidence and recruiting further.

That’s according to the first published Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES).

The findings, released on January 8, feature responses from 41 local firms about their performance, concerns and experiences of trading in last quarter of 2013.

The responses also reveal confidence in both turnover and profitability over the next 12 months.

The survey shows 88per cent of manufacturers expect turnover to improve and the same figure expecting profitability to improve or stay the same in 2014. Within the service sector 91 percent of respondents expect turnover and 76per cent expect profitability to improve over the coming year.

Businesses, particularly those in the service sector, were optimistic about plans to increase their workforce. The survey reveals 91per cent of service firms were anticipating their workforce to increase or stay the same in the first quarter of 2014, compared to 75percent of manufacturers who responded.

Over 85percent of all firms tried to recruit new employees during the quarter (up from 55percent on Q3) with 100percent of manufacturing and 79percent of service opportunities being for full-time jobs.

Turning to domestic sales, half of manufacturing respondent’s UK sales over the last three months had increased – with no firms reporting a fall. This was very much in line with Q3 results. Of the service businesses who responded, the results were slightly better than Q3 with 91per cent reporting that sales had increased or stayed the same over the quarter.

Export sales and orders remained in positive territory this quarter, with 75per cent of manufacturers export sales’ reporting an increase during the fourth quarter although this figure was down compared to the comparable Q3 result of 86per cent. The service sector also continues to flourish in relation to exports – 75per cent reporting an increase in export sales over the last three months (up from 69per cent last quarter).

The survey also shows a clear improvement in the cashflow position for both manufacturing and service sector respondents’ with 0 per cent (down from 14percent on Q3) of manufacturers and 6percent (down from 10per cent on Q3) of service firms reporting a worsening of cashflow during the quarter.

Investment plans for manufacturing in relation to both plant and machinery, and training have improved compared to the third quarter with 4percent reporting an improvement in plans to invest in plant and 32percent on investment in training. Meanwhile planned investment by service firms have remained fairly static this quarter with 39percent on plant and machinery, and 30percent on training.

The survey also showed that 25per cent of manufacturing business and 27percent of service businesses expected they would raise prices in first quarter of 2014. Overheads is the key issue for manufacturers and service providers to raise prices.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce said: “We are delighted to announce the publication of our first QES survey which is also the first such report of 2014.

“The survey gives a positive picture overall and highlights the fact that businesses are entering the New Year with renewed optimism.

“Confidence is high and companies, particularly those in the service sector are now more willing to recruit and invest, leading to growth. It illustrates that Milton Keynes companies are playing their part in helping the economy to recover.

“However the Government needs to ensure businesses have access to cashflow and introduce business-friendly initiatives if companies are to expand and truly succeed.”