Christmas could give our recovery a leg-up

Coast to Capital director Ron Crank
Coast to Capital director Ron Crank

BUSINESSES across the Herald and Gazette patch are ‘cautiously optimistic’ following suggestions from the Bank of England that the economic recovery is gathering steam.

‘Small signs of growth’ are being felt across the area, as business confidence slowly increases, while retailers are looking ahead to Christmas trading for indications on consumer spending.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance across Worthing, Adur and Arun has also fallen to two percent, the lowest figure since 2008.

But business figures have warned that while positive signs are beginning to show, the road to recovery will be slow.

Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce CEO Tina Tilley said: “I think it has been stable long enough for us to see mini areas of growth, but not yet sustained growth.

“We are starting to see a reasonably positive attitude towards the future, but the recovery is not going to be fast and furious.”

Echoing Mrs Tilley’s comments, Coast to Capital director Ron Crank said there was a ‘positive mood’ across the area.

He said: “It is going to be a slow process and we are not out of the woods yet, but it is a case of being cautiously optimistic.

“Businesses are starting to get more orders and export a bit more, and having spoken to the banks, they have suggested things have turned a corner since June or July.”

One company benefiting from strong exports is East Worthing digital thermometer firm ETI, which has seen export sales this year grow in excess of 18 per cent.

Last month, the company also recorded sales of over £1 million for the first time in its 30 year history.

Managing director Peter Webb said the company had seen evidence of a recovery, with restaurant chains investing in new technology in recent months.

He said: “There are definite signs that the UK food industry is recovering, and that is a positive sign for us.

“It has been a memorable year for ETI, and through our growth in export sales, we have created 20 additional jobs this year.”

In Worthing town centre, 67 per cent of retailers have reported equal or greater performance this month, compared to the same period last year.

Vacancy rates continue to fall, with the number of empty shops now under eight per cent.

Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said: “There is certainly a more positive feeling, and the summer’s good weather helped.

“Many traders will be looking towards Christmas to judge how the year has been.

“What we are hearing is consumers are spending at the cheaper end of the market, suggesting many are still struggling with the cost of living.”

Elsewhere, Arun District Council business development manager Miriam Nicholls reported a mixed picture in the Littlehampton area.

She said that established businesses were doing ‘much better’, but small businesses were still struggling.

She said: “It is mixed. Some companies are doing better, with those providing what I would call essential services doing ok.

“But small businesses and start-ups are still finding it quite tough.

“Whatever is being reported, there is still issues with borrowing money but fewer firms are laying people off and more recruiting, which is encouraging.”