The second quarter of 2021 brought improvements for many Buckinghamshire businesses, as most Covid restrictions came to an end.
However, trading difficulties continued for some. Reasons included on-going Covid-19 related disruption (particularly in sectors reliant on international travel), labour shortages (linked to the ‘pingdemic’ and reduced numbers of EU workers) and supply chain disruption (linked to global patterns of demand, the UK’s exit from the EU and driver shortages) reports The Buckinghamshire Business Barometer.
Just under half of those responding to the Buckinghamshire Business Barometer described trading conditions between April and June as ‘worse than normal’ for the time of year.
This is down from three quarters of those saying the same for the previous quarter.
Improvements have been experienced by firms in their profits, turnover, order books / pipeline and sales in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the previous quarter.
Costs have however increased for almost half of responding firms, highlighting issues of patterns of demand and supply chain disruption.
With regards to changing workspace requirements, respondents provided a picture that office space is still being maintained and is increasingly in demand.
Findings showed that the majority of respondents over the last 12 months (58%) have maintained their office space, and will continue to maintain it in the coming year (55%).
However, an increasing proportion of firms are planning to increase their office space in the coming year (24%) compared to over the previous year (16%), whilst a decreasing number are planning to relinquish it completely (20% for the previous year compared to 14% for the coming year).
The transition to a home or hybrid way of working for office workers has led to increased demand for small meeting room spaces with flexible booking arrangements (41%), and co working/shared office spaces (21%) for those that are downsizing or relinquishing their office space.
Looking ahead, hybrid working and homeworking models are here to stay for many firms in Buckinghamshire, with many opting to invest in this change through implementing improvements that can help make it a success in the longer term.
This includes improving internet connectivity at employee homes and upgrading computer hardware.
A sizeable proportion of firms report that they plan to invest in their business during the next quarter.
61% plan to invest in training and development, closely followed by 58% of all respondents reporting plans to invest in marketing and / or advertising.
Furthermore, just under a half plan to invest in digital technologies (43%) and a quarter plan to invest in equipment and / or machinery.
Encouragingly, more respondents plan to increase their employee headcount (36%) than to decease their headcount (5%). This could be related to the lifting of Covid restrictions from 19 July onwards.
The survey can be completed by any business operating within Buckinghamshire and is promoted to businesses through BBF and its partners.
The next survey (Q3 2021) will be conducted in October/November 2021.