With Article 50 due to be triggered tomorrow it is timely that the latest CESA Business Barometer measured how concerned the UK catering equipment industry is about Brexit.
However, there are positives, especially in terms of trading, with many companies reporting continuing growth in sales, despite the uncertainties.
The Barometer is a quarterly survey of CESA members, aiming to find out the key issues affecting their businesses, their perceptions about the future, and their plans over the next 12 months.
The 2016 Q4 survey reveals the impact of the uncertainties caused by Brexit. Many companies are delaying investment in areas such as premises and operating systems. They are reassessing their workforces as they look to reduce costs. They expect to have to increase prices as the cost of raw materials continues to rise. They also expect to put a freeze on employee benefits and are holding back on investment. Furthermore, they are worried about VAT and border restrictions.
There are positives to be found, even in the negatives: some are saying that the focus on operating more efficiently is actually a good thing. “We’ve had to look hard at where and how much we are spending money, which in turn has actually made us a better organisation,” was one such comment.
A key concern is the perceived lack of investment in the Department of International Trade – previously UKT&I. “The government seems to be cutting funding at a time when SMEs need support and funding if we are to drive our exports further,” said one respondent.
In terms of negotiating Brexit, the top three priorities are predictable: companies want access to the single market, they want free movement of people and they want access to skilled workers.
Glenn Roberts, chair of CESA commented: “Rather than becoming clearer, the uncertainties surrounding Brexit seem to be getting ever more complex.
“However, the Barometer is the type of hard research that gives us a powerful tool to argue the industry’s position with government. Over the coming months we have several meetings lined up with ministers and representatives of various departments. They have sought our input and we’ll be telling them exactly what the catering equipment industry wants.”