The number of West Country businesses reporting an increase in domestic sales dropped from 28 percent in the third quarter of 2019 to just 11 percent in the same period this year, according to a new survey by business support organisation Business West.
Whilst sales growth across the region narrowly avoided dipping down to single digits in the three months to September 19, an easing of lockdown appears to have done little to spur domestic orders with growth down to 8.7 percent for the quarter.
Comparing this to the 20 percent figure recorded in the same period last year, the results represent an 11-point decline in just twelve months.
As well as providing evidence of an ailing domestic market amidst tough global trading conditions, the survey also demonstrates the mounting jobs crisis in the region, with less than six percent of businesses taking on staff compared to 15.7 percent in the same period last year.
The sluggishness of the recovery from Covid-19 has resulted in a knock to business confidence in the region. Less than half (45 percent) of businesses surveyed stated that they were ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ regarding the future.
The hardest hit of the 300+ respondents who answered the survey are in the retail, leisure and hospitality business – a sector of the economy which continues to suffer as a result of ongoing lockdown restrictions.
Business West’s managing director Phil Smith said: “Our findings clearly demonstrate that business conditions remain fragile in the face of uncertainty, with the prospect of a difficult winter to come. It is time to be direct.
“The economy will need more support, over and above the Chancellor’s welcome recent efforts. Ministers must stand ready to provide that support, and to strengthen measures to underpin business cash flow and jobs.
“The disappointing Test and Trace system must be improved to ensure as many businesses as possible can function through the winter and beyond. A Brexit deal must be reached to avoid yet more disruption. And above all, businesses need confidence and calm, clear communication to successfully navigate a tricky period ahead.”