North West bucks trend as business confidence rises

Confidence among North West businesses has risen in the last quarter despite a fall overall across England, according to a report from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Grant Thornton.

confidenceThe latest UK Business Confidence Monitor (BCM), shows business confidence in the North West rose in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2014 by 2.2 points, standing at +34.0 compared to +27.8 in Q3 2014.

According the ICAEW, a sharp rise in sales volumes across the North West, up 5.5% on Q4 2013, has contributed to a buoyant growth in profits.

Across the UK as a whole, business confidence dipped for the second consecutive quarter to +28.6 from +32.3 in Q3 due to uncertainties ahead.

Key findings for Q4 2014 suggests that the economy will expand at a quarter-on-quarter rate of 1%, while turnover and profit growth have broadly stabilised at levels higher than seen in the past five years.

Export growth across the UK has deteriorated markedly alongside a struggling Eurozone economy, although domestic sales have remained stronger.

Salaries have started to creep up in real terms, although this is largely down to falling inflation, as annual pay rises remained steady this quarter.

Meanwhile skills shortages and levels of staff turnover are a greater concern for more businesses this quarter, highlighting a rising potential barrier to growth ahead.

Commenting on the figures, Graham Lamont chief executive of Lancaster-based chartered accountancy firm Lamont Pridmore said: “We are encouraged that businesses in the North West are more confident than their counterparts across the rest of the North and the UK as a whole.

“This shows that the economy in Cumbria and the North West is particularly resilient to problems at home and in the Eurozone and businesses in our area have the confidence to invest in new staff, products and services.

Phil Elwood, managing director of the firm’s Lancaster office commented: “With the right support, business can put in place the right processes to ensure a profitable future, making most of the opportunities available to them as the economy continues to grow. “Our advice to businesses looking to expand is to seek the right sort of investment and look into ways of maximising profits and reduce outgoing costs."