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Recession over? Not around here, it isn't
THE recession may be over for now, but business owners in Worcestershire say they are praying for signs it has gone for good.
Shopkeepers, independent traders, car garages, big companies – they all say they are still counting the pennies despite the economy improving.
Data released on Thursday showed output increased by one per cent between June and September, with a spending boom fuelled by the London Olympics.
Spencer Lowe, a director at Lowes Garage in Weir Lane, Worcester, said: “We’ve had a chat about this here already and to be honest, London may be doing fine but Worcester isn’t.
“Without a doubt the last few years have been tough – when the recession first hit servicing dropped right off and many people left their cars on the drive because they couldn’t afford to run them.
“It’s been up and down but we haven’t seen a major improvement.”
Others struck a more optimistic tone and said they were starting to see some encouraging signs.
Chris Marks, who runs Iapetus Gallery in Malvern, an independent hand-made gift store, said: “I think all those things going on during the summer brought a feel-good factor – when people are smiling they tend to spend more.
“Trade has been reasonable but not amazing. The difficult thing about the recession has been the unpredictability.
“When it first started in 2008 things were pretty bad and a lot of belt-tightening went on – but we’re confident about the future.”
One of the hardest hit areas remains the construction industry – a sector which shrank 2.5 per cent despite growth elsewhere. At Thomas Vale, a construction giant in Stouport-on-Severn, turnover was down £20 million in the last financial year and operating profits reduced from £3.7 million to £1.9 million.
Tony Hyde, managing director, said: “Construction has had some big and small name casualties, but those who continue to add value and strengthen their marketing strategy will fare well over what I predict will be another 12-18 months’ recovery.” Keith Marshall-Walker, who runs Paint Box, an art and prints shop in Mealcheapen Street, Worcester, said: “We’ve had to diversify to keep going, expanding to bric-a-brac, for example – we’ve seen nothing good.”
Some other businesses said they had noticed pleasing trends in recent weeks, giving hope the quarter from October to December will show further growth.
Gerard Smith, a partner at Andrew Grant estate agents in Worcester, said: “For us the last three years have been the most challenging for a generation – but prices of homes have stabilised at a base level and in the last eight weeks we’ve had a 30 per cent rise in business.
“We won’t be opening the champagne any time soon, but it gives us reason to be optimistic.”