Fife businesses are feeling optimistic about the future as lockdown restrictions ease, according to findings from a business survey conducted by Invest Fife.
The outlook for economic growth is upbeat, as 65 per cent of the 385 Fife-based businesses that participated in the online survey in April, reported feeling positive about the future, and 60 per cent are confident of sustainability, with just 7 per cent reporting a ‘severe risk’.
Encouragingly too, 50 per cent reported a shift towards using UK-based suppliers following BREXIT, with a third (33 per cent) embracing greater use of local and UK supply chains. Businesses also see their growth potential in the UK, with 41 per cent of Fife businesses targeting new customers in the UK.
It has long been documented that trading conditions have been tough for businesses not just in Fife, but across the country, as 79 per cent noted that they had been affected financially. But, this seems to have made Fife’s local businesses even more determined to succeed – 68 per cent of businesses, that’s over two thirds, have plans to expand, 10 per cent of which, are considering more ambitious expansion plans.
In terms of finance, an area in which businesses have been most impacted, 95 per cent of businesses have accessed a source of COVID Government-backed financial support during the pandemic.
Figures released by Fife Council, show that in the last year, Business Gateway Fife and Fife Council approved over 12,000 applications, totalling a staggering £133.5 million. These grants, funded by either the Scottish Government or Fife Council, have offered a lifeline to local businesses, during these unprecedented times. As a result of this, 65 per cent of businesses have stated that their cash reserves will last one month or more, whilst 40 per cent can survive financially for four months or more.
Pamela Stevenson, Service Manager, Economic Development, Business & Employability at Fife Council, welcomed the survey findings. She said:
“It’s not been an easy time for businesses, as trading conditions have been tough, and therefore turnover has been impacted. But what is welcoming, is that despite adversity, Fife’s businesses have shown resilience, with the majority reviewing strategies, business models, as well as products and services. Overall, the consensus is that businesses are positive, ready, poised and focused on doing business now restrictions have eased.
“The feedback that we received from businesses regarding BREXIT, was noteworthy and also encouraging. Almost half of respondents are using UK suppliers following the UK withdrawal from Europe, which is welcome news for local and national economies.”
Also worthy of note, is that 75 per cent of manufacturing businesses in the region continued to operate from their current premises throughout the pandemic. And, at the time of the survey (April 2021), which coincided with lockdown restrictions easing, 89 per cent of respondents were back trading, with many reporting that they have learnt to be more proactive in terms of continuing to review the products and services offered.
The results weren’t all positive, unsurprisingly 78 per cent of businesses reported a fall in turnover and 76 per cent having experienced cancelled contracts as a result of the pandemic. This is a slight increase (4 per cent) on previous findings from Invest Fife’s October survey.
There is also, potentially, a digital skills gap with 40 per cent of respondents seeking more training and development for staff in digital skills. This will partly be due to work from home guidance, as over a quarter of businesses, expect remote learning to continue beyond the pandemic.
Pamela Stevenson added:
What is welcome too, is that the findings that were less positive, reveal where attention and funding is needed, and highlights how we can best meet the needs of our local businesses. Our teams will be reaching out to all participating businesses.”
Many of the survey respondents will now be contacted by Fife Council’s Economic Development Team and Business Gateway Fife to be offered tailored support, help and guidance offered where needed.
For further information relating to Invest Fife’s Business Barometer, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org