SMEs aim for home comforts to drive growth

YORKSHIRE’S smaller manufacturers are planning to cash in on the UK economy’s improved performance by selling their goods closer to home, according to a new survey.

Nearly three quarters of the companies questioned believe that increasing sales at home offers them the best chance to expand in the current conditions.

A study carried out by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) indicates that many local firms have decided to focus on the domestic market during a period of instability overseas.

Many economists are worried about the deep-rooted problems in the eurozone, and the disappointing growth figures in other major economies like the US.

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Nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of the companies questioned in the latest MAS Barometer believe that increasing sales at home offers them the best chance to expand.

Just over a third (34 per cent) of the respondents were looking to boost their exports. Many of the firms surveyed said they were looking to improve production processes and introduce new products.

Almost half of the respondents expected to see an increase in their collective turnover, and a quarter believed their staffing levels would rise over the next four years.

David Caddle, the area director of MAS, said yesterday: “There is significant confidence in the domestic marketplace at the moment, a further signal that the recovery has taken hold.

“We’ve seen unrivalled investment in the UK automotive industry and that is cascading down the supply chain and creating new opportunities. Our reputation for low carbon advancement should also be another growth sector and I’m sure our manufacturing SMEs will be in line to take advantage of major infrastructure projects, such as High Speed Rail.”

He added: “As part of the long-term focus, we also asked respondents about their biggest strengths, with the quality of senior leadership teams (71 per cent) coming out on top, followed by innovative products (61 per cent) and robust strategy (57 per cent).

“It was surprising to discover that the biggest challenge is access to skills (77 per cent), while marketing and creating effective sales channels were the next major concerns. We will work with partners to help SME manufacturers overcome these challenges.”

The MAS Barometer is based on responses from 130 small manufacturers across Yorkshire, who employ more than 4,300 people and have a collective turnover of more than £329m.

Sixty five per cent of the respondents said they had increased sales in the last six months, and 84 per cent expect to grow between now and the end of the year, which is a three per cent and 14 per cent improvement respectively on this time last year. Sixty four per cent are looking to create jobs, which is a 23 per cent rise on 2013.

Mr Caddle added: “Despite recent economic surveys reporting a slight dip in manufacturing performance, it appears the smaller firms are still confident of growing, especially when you compare the key performance indicators with the figures from last summer.

“Everything we monitor, including sales, future growth, jobs and investment, are all up across the board.”