Fringe Box



Business Confidence? Guildford Has Plenty – Despite Gloom Elsewhere

Published on: 13 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 28 Feb, 2013

Gloom BBC Screen shot Feb 2013A BBC news report  this week carried the headline, ‘Business confidence ‘hits new low’, says survey’.

It continued: “Confidence among UK businesses hit its lowest level in at least 21 years last month, a survey suggests.

“Accountancy firm BDO, which published the survey, said it suggests the economy will struggle to grow in the first quarter of this year.

“BDO’s Optimism Index fell to 88.9 in January, well below the score of 95 needed to indicate growth. That is the lowest level recorded since the survey was launched in 1992.”

The Guildford Dragon NEWS thought that they would test this against the knowledge and experience of a few people who are well placed to judge the health of business locally, in our town. This is what they said:

Stephen Mansbridge, Council Leader (Con): “We are focussing on the continuing confidence in Guildford as a dynamic economy and I think that is illustrated by the strength of the town’s retail activity. The town is above the national average for business start ups and we have low unemployment rates.

Business confidence remains strong and growing, particularly in knowledge based industries with companies like SSTL [Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd]  increasing their market share. Of course, there are some sectors which have increased pressures caused by economic slow down but Guildford remains a strong and growing economy.

The collapse of national chains such as JJB and HMV, whilst they create empty space in Guildford, are not reflective of Guildford’s economy as a town.

The effect of the internet on the retail environment of complex does not necessarily mean economic shrinkage. People enjoy the experience of shopping and there are few better places than Guildford in which to shop.

Spokesperson for the Lib Dem Group, Guildford Borough Council: “While there are some vacant retail premises in the town centre, we still have new businesses of varying sizes opening in the town. I have had feedback from local people wanting to start up in the town centre but landlords appear to prefer to see empty shops and seem to be reluctant to do deals for new tenants.

We know that we have a vibrant and expanding group of computer games companies both large and small, a Science Park that is full and thriving, and a housing market that has so far not been affected.

We feel that Guildford will buck the trend and continue to be in a positive position, especially given the plans which will be coming forward over the next year for more town centre housing to support the local businesses and their employees.”

Out with the old, La Senza, and in with the new, Miss London

Guildford High Street – Out with the old, La Senza, and in with the new, Miss London

From Kevin Lorimer, General Manager, County Club: “I don’t think you can have a general “one size fits all” view of the economic trading conditions of Guildford.  The demise of HMV, Jessops and Comet make for bad reading but then look at the new arrivals in Guildford.

“Metro Bank are moving into the old JJB Sports shop.  Hotter Shoes have taken over the old Viyella, La Senza is to become the new Miss London.  Joules opened their new store this week with a queue of 20 people outside!

“There is clearly a will to invest in Guildford and that will continue for as long as we make shopping in Guildford an excellent experience.  That ranges from good, clean and safe car parks to a wide range of shops, coffee shops and places to eat.

“Events like the Olympic Torch and Tour of Britain Cycle race coming through Guildford give the town wide publicity around the world.  Food outlets benefit hugely on the day whilst retail take the benefit over the long term.

“Up-market ladies wear shop Gerard Darell tell me, ‘Takings are on par with last year but the customer is far more choosey about how they spend their money.’ ”

Paul Bridgland of Best of Guildford: “The BBC report does not tally with my experience locally. But I don’t think anyone can deny that retail has been hard hit on three fronts: lack of footfall due to the recession, increases in overheads, fuel and heating but, most importantly, the inevitable and unstoppable effect of our growing love affair with online shopping.

“According to Offcom the UK leads the world in this respect. In terms of business to business I don’t think that resourceful and committed business are allowing the recession to harm them. They are having to work harder for their business but many would see the recession as an advantage. Survival of the fittest has never been more apt than it is now.

My advice is, ignore the news and be positive, it’s worked so far for us. We’re definitely not complaining and see Guildford as one of the best UK towns to be in right now.

Paul Nathanson, Director of  PNPR:”These last 12 months have shown a marked increase in confidence in Surrey businesses. Projects have turned into year long campaigns with two major clients, and we have had repeat business from 90% of existing clients.

There are two reasons, I’d suggest: People in Surrey are by nature very entrepreneurial and not much given to pessimism. They believe in themselves and after the initial shock of the 2008 financial collapse, refused to be cowed by talk of double dip recessions.

Secondly, Surrey business people are simply fed up with unending diet of doom and gloom. So they’re calling on their natural energy and business nous to defy national trends and carry on growing, developing and investing.

“That’s why turnover was up by 12% in Surrey businesses last year, reaching £155.6 billion, according to a report by PKF, Ransac and Hart Brown. I’m certainly confident that the local economy will continue to grow.”

Claire Dee, Director, Claire Dee Communications: “These findings are in slight contrast to a PwC survey released at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month which showed that while more than than half (52%) of chief executives predict no change in the economy and 28% see further decline, 18% do expect to see some sort of improvement.  And this is up on last year, when the survey revealed 48% predicted a decline.

“Yes, these are challenging times, but my local business, and many others I know and regularly deal with, are doing well and continuing to grow and prosper.  I think 2013 should be a year of more positivity in the media about our economy.

“Guildford, Surrey and the South East are all known as the economic powerhouses of the UK – Oxford Economics has forecast that London and the South East will pay 36% of the nation’s tax take in 2012/13.”

“In short, there is much business confidence and good news at a local level – let’s spread the word.”

What do you think? Do you agree with all the optimism? Perhaps you are involved in business in the town or you are a customer on the High Street? Please let us know your views by simply using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

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