Chamber QES highlights tough conditions for firms at the close of 2020

January 4, 2021 @ 7:30 by Richard Dawson

Trading conditions in the fourth quarter of 2020 continue to be difficult for North East businesses, according to the latest Chamber quarterly economic survey (QES).

Results from the North East England Chamber of Commerce QES show that business confidence remains at historic lows in Q4 2020.

Scores for key indicators all sit in negative territory, with UK sales down 22.9 per cent.

Chamber President Lesley Moody said: “These survey results show that even though business conditions continued to improve during the final quarter of 2020, things are still very tough for many firms across our region.

“COVID-19, Brexit and the economic climate have kept sales, orders and cashflow firmly in negative territory, despite some improvements over the latter half of the year.

“These results are also a stark reminder of how much work is needed to get our economy back on its feet.

“Yet the improvements we see are also testament to the resilience of our businesses; who have been doing everything they can to survive and grow in the face of exceptional circumstances.

“Let us all hope that 2021 provides the rewards and recognition they deserve.”

Other results in the QES indicated that export orders for manufacturers were down 20 per cent.

Investment in plant and machinery for both the services and manufacturing sectors were at a similar level, down 19.3 per cent.

Mike Wade, finance manager at Hodgson Sayers, which is a member of the Chamber, added: “We have seen within the construction industry, particularly within our main area of activity the repair and refurbishment sector, some recovery from the rapid downturn at the start of the initial lockdown, albeit this is gradual.

“The Construction Leadership Council worked swiftly with government and workers’ representatives, to agree safe working practices which allowed workers to return to sites.

“Our Q4 has seen the resumption of several large contracts that had been suspended, and we are actively recruiting for roles is those areas, although we are yet to see a return to normal levels of activity and anticipate this will not occur until Q1 2021.”

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