THE number of firms in the county predicting falling sales over the next 12 months is the ‘gloomiest prediction on record’, according to a recent survey by the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.
Fewer than half of respondents to the year’s Quarter 2 survey (49 per cent), expect sales to improve in the coming year, while a quarter expect them to decline.
In addition, the report notes growing ‘polarisation’ between those firms managing to weather recent volatility and those finding it a struggle.
Polarisation is almost at its highest level among companies benefitting from the weak pound, with over a third reporting growth in overseas sales, but one in four recording a fall in exports.
Jo James, Chief Executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said overall the export results point to a ‘pick up’ in activity for both service sector firms and manufacturers.
“The improving growth outlook for some of the UK’s key international markets, and the weaker sterling, have helped improve trading conditions for UK exporters,” she commented.
Other findings revealed that more firms wereinvesting in training than new equipment, with the report noting: “This is presumably a function of firms’ greater sense of uncertainty, with labour seen as a more flexible resource to deploy – or to dispense with.”
On a positive note, the gloomier sentiment among companies has not dampened their appetite to continue hiring staff, with over half looking to fill vacancies.
The report concludes: “This implies that some firms are seeking to reshape their skill set – and maybe business model?”
However, it adds: “Among the respondents trying to hire, the great majority continue to find suitable applicants hard to find for one or more skill set.”
In total, 110 firms took part in the survey. The services to manufacturing ratio was around 3 to 1.