Ros Snowdon: All set for a ‘Brumpy’ ride but Yorkshire firms dig deep

EU and UK flags. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
EU and UK flags. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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If someone tells you where the economy will end up by the end of 2017, don’t believe a word of it.

There are so many uncertainties in the new world of Brump (Brexit plus Trump) that the future is impossible to predict. Will a hard Brexit lead to a new era of prosperity or will the economy come crashing down?

Carphone Warehouse billionaire Charles Dunstone​ famously said: ​“What I feel about Brexit is that it’s a little bit like we’ve jumped off a 100-storey building and have just passed the 50th floor and we’re saying, ‘Actually this isn’t so absolutely terrible’ – but we haven’t hit the pavement yet.”

However Tim Dewey​, CEO of Keighley-based brewery Timothy Taylor,​ believes that Theresa May​ was right to say the UK w​ill​ leave the single market.

​“​Access to the single market cannot be denied,” he said.

“There is no reason why we can’t allow the EU continued​ ​tariff free access to our market in return for tariff free access to theirs​. Remember that​ ​they sell us much more than we sell them.​”

One of them will be proved very wrong and only time will tell which one it is.

So what should Yorkshire firms be doing in such a time of great uncertainty and how is Brump likely to affect the region?

Yorkshire’s three FTSE 100 members – Morrisons, Persimmon and Provident Financial – all have experienced management teams and highly respected chief executives who have lived through serious downturns in the past. ​

All three have put in a strong performance since the referendum last June. Morrisons was the ​star performer among the big four grocers​ over the last quarter as shoppers flock back to its stores.

The Bradford-based grocer is enjoying a renaissance under CEO David Potts, who is returning the group to the traditional values held by former boss, Sir Ken Morrison, who died earlier this year.

Morrisons emerged as the ​fastest-growing retailer ​out of the big four, increasing its market share for the first time since June 2015 with a sales uplift of 1.9​ per cent​ year on year​, according to Kantar Worldpanel​.

Morrisons also holds a trump card in that it produces more of its own food than any other grocer. It also champions British produce.

At a time when the pound has fallen almost 20 per cent against the dollar since the Brexit vote, it is less reliant than rivals on expensive imports.

Housebuilder Persimmon said that ​private ​sales have risen ​15 per cent since the UK voted in June to leave the EU.

The York-based firm reported robust sales reservations during the autumn selling season, boosted by readily available mortgage deals and its average selling price ​rose 4​ per cent​ to £206,700​, up from ​£199,127​ in 2015.​

The FTSE 100’s third Yorkshire constituent, credit lender Provident Financial, ​reported ​strong trading in the fourth quarter​ ​of 2016 despite the Brexit vote.

Bradford-based Provident said its Vanquis credit card business reported a 9 per cent rise in customer numbers to 1.5 million​ ​and its ​​consumer credit arm saw a robust performance during the peak festive season.

In times of uncertainty, Provident sharpens its focus on good-quality customers – a focus that helped it to emerge unscathed from the 2008 financial crisis.

On a smaller scale, Yorkshire PLCs Animalcare and Tracsis showed on Wednesday how they are quietly getting on with things – investing in their future and focusing on their niche markets.

York-based pet drugs firm Animalcare reported record first half results and said its decision to invest in the business despite the Brexit vote has paid off.

Meanwhile, Leeds-based transport software firm Tracsis said its second half is expected to be significantly stronger than its first half.

Yorkshire firms don’t tend to panic. They plan for all scenarios and focus on their strengths.

No-one knows what will happen after Article 50 is triggered, but history shows that Yorkshire grit and determination will get the job done.