Issue 4 2021

CEO MONTHLY / ISSUE 4 2021 5 , The official UK trade figures for February make grim reading for Britain’s manufacturers and retailers, says the international delivery expert ParcelHero. Comparing the results to those of a year ago, exports of goods collapsed by £65.3bn and imports crumbled by £64.8bn. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: “The trade figures for February, released this week, are extremely concerning. The -18.3% YOY collapse in exports highlights the impact Brexit is having on the UK economy. “It is encouraging that British exports did struggle upwards 9.9% in February compared to the previous month, January 2021. However, that is setting the bar exceedingly low, given that January’s exports were, by far, the worst ever recorded. The £3.7bn (46.6%) monthly uptick in exports to the EU in February looks a positive headline figure, but keep in mind they had fallen by an eye-watering £5.6bn in January. There’s still a lot of trade to claw back. February’s exports to non-EU countries actually fell by -10.5% compared to the previous month. How non- EU exports could fall by £1.5bn against January’s terrible results beggars’ belief. “The Government can no longer claim that the latest trade results are due to a temporary, post- Christmas dip or stockpiling, as it did for January’s figures. These numbers are clear proof of the impact of Brexit. Even imports of goods fell by over £64bn compared to February 2020 – a decline of -13.6%. That includes sales of key consumer goods such as clothing, footwear and technology. “Brexiteers claimed that markets such as the USwould compensate for the loss of trade with the European Union. This proved not to be the case in February. The latest Government data shows that, of the top four UK exports to the USA, only car sales rose. Pharmaceuticals and medicines slumped -42%, chemicals -4% and power equipment -8%. “When Boris Johnson signed his Brexit deal with the EU on 24 December, he claimed Britain would be “prosperous and dynamic and contented”. So far, UK exporters look less prosperous, far from dynamic and increasingly discontented. British businesses continue to wrestle with increased customs tariffs, border delays and rising transport costs. “Our fear is that therecouldbeeven worse to come. Let’s not forget that some of the most complex, new EU border regulations have been postponed, unilaterally, by the UK Government. What their impact might be on these already worrying trade figures when they are eventually imposed, only time will tell.” Key findings: • 3 in 4 business leaders (74 per cent) ex- pect the overall economic conditions in the UK and Ireland to improve in the next 12 months • 84 per cent of businesses anticipate reve- nues will improve in the next 12 months • A significant majority of firms (64 per cent) expect profita- bility to improve in the next 12 months • Over 2 in 3 business leaders (70 per cent) believe they will continue to hire new employees over the course of this year • Almost half (45 per cent) of UK and Irish businesses have the cash reserves to support their businesses for more than a year • 94 per cent of SMEs believe retaining existing staff as important or very important Vistage, the world’s leading business performance and lead- ership advancement organisation for small and medium-size businesses, has found that over 3 in 4 (74 per cent) of SME leaders expect economic conditions to improve in the next year. The report has also found that a majority (84 per cent) of companies anticipate revenue will continue to improve in the same period of time. Talent SME leaders have identified talent acquisition and retention as a key business objective in the next few months with 98 per cent of CEOs saying they consider creating a strong organisa- tional culture as important or very important. Furthermore, 91 per cent of businesses believe that attracting qualified talent as important or very important to their business. Employee engagement is also a key priority for UK and Irish SMEs in in the next 12 months. Over 94 per cent of CEOs con- sider employee engagement to be important or very important. And a similar number of respondents (94 per cent) revealed that training and development is important or very important for their businesses’ success moving forward. Work-from-home vs. Office UK and Irish companies are making plans for a hybrid work- force. 75 per cent of companies will continue to offer employ- ees the option to work from home in an effort to accommodate the growing workplace trend as well as to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Just over half (52 per cent) of firms also believe that the latest lockdown has had no impact on their business. Vistage Managing Director (UK), Geoff Lawrence said: “The rapid rollout of the vaccine across the country has potentially led to business confidence hitting its highest levels. Our survey results suggest that SMEs in the UK and Ireland are due for a significant rebound as we enter the final stages of the current lockdown. Additionally, government support from furlough to business rates measures have had the intended effect of helping small businesses regain some stability in the current situation. We anticipate that although there is a long way to go before businesses can recover to pre-crisis levels, there is every indication that UK and Irish businesses can come back stronger and better. “SME leaders need to ensure they have revisited and revised their strategy and business models to exploit the expected growth in customer demand as well as to steal a march on their competitors. The marketplace has changed, and so must their business.” UK exports tumble -18.3% as ParcelHero warns that non-EU countries won’t fill the hole created by Brexit