The launch of the report is a very timely reminder of the ongoing financial pressures which North-east businesses are facing.
Whilst businesses have certainly benefitted from robust cash flow management instigated over the past 12 months, significant external pressures on cash flow continue to exert pressure on financials.
We are seeing many businesses reporting considerable ongoing cash pressures and in some cases the need to look at further refinancing.
In response to the survey, North-east businesses reported higher cost pressures from labour, raw materials and utilities than elsewhere in the UK whilst interest rates and inflation continue to drive costs up.
Many businesses have seen increased turnover as the economy remains more robust than many expected. However, that volume is not translating to profit as costs and pricing pressure squeeze margins.
Unsurprisingly, the old maxim that “cash is king” is one of the key takeaways from the report. Over 25% of businesses experienced increased debtor days during the last quarter - a significant metric for cash management – and almost 60% saw pricing and payment pressures increase in the same period.
These twin threats mean 30% of businesses see increased potential for payment disputes and litigation. It is crucial, therefore, that businesses have a clear contractual understanding of their position and the options open to them as early as early as possible alongside robust financial management.
However, there may well be some light at the end of the tunnel as 35% of North-east businesses reported improvement in global sales beyond that seen elsewhere in the UK.
For decades, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire has had an excellent reputation as an exporter of goods, services and expertise on a worldwide scale.
That global market reach may be providing some insulation from the more localised Brexit impacts many UK businesses are feeling.
The Bank of England’s recent pause on interest rate rises was certainly broadly welcomed across the business community. However, the Bank has signalled that rates will likely remain high for the next two years.
For now, high interest rates and borrowing costs are not yet translating into broader anticipated deflationary signs in the markets. The North-east Quarterly Economic Survey report provides key reminders of some of the rigours that businesses need to continue to apply as they navigate the risks and opportunities ahead.