Leicestershire business leaders say local economy is resilient enough to beat economic blues
Business leaders claim that Leicestershire is in a strong position – despite the worsening economy.
Figures released yesterday showed the size of the UK economy fell by 0.7 per cent in the three months to June — more than three times as much as analysts had expected.
The official figures marked the third quarter of contraction and the longest double-dip recession in half a century.
Business leaders blamed the unseasonably wet weather and the disruption to trade caused by the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
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Martin Traynor, chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "The figure is very disappointing. Retail sales have been disproportionately hit by continuing bad weather.
"However, manufacturing, especially in Leicester and Leicestershire, is performing well and companies that are exporting are still experiencing excellent trade."
Mr Traynor said a survey of 200 chamber members in June found 86 per cent of firms thought turnover would increase or be the same over the next three months.
Mandip Rai, head of Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, the public-private partnership charged with growing the local economy, said: "Leicester and Leicestershire are more resilient than other areas and we have been since the first dip in 2008. The unemployment figures demonstrate that."
It was revealed last week the number of vacancies in the county has grown faster than the amount of jobseekers for the first time in four years.
Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce said vacancies in the county now stand at about 24,000, compared to the 22,631 of people out of work and claiming Jobseekers' Allowance.
Mr Rai said he expected the local economy to be boosted by the Olympics and said a number of major companies were looking at relocating to the county over the coming months, which would create jobs and boost economic output.
Chris Batty, managing director of metal casting firm Lestercast, of Ireton Road, Leicester, said the company was expected to grow by 28 per cent in the year to November 30.
Mr Batty said although the firm exports half its products, many of the increased sales were coming from the UK. The company, which employs 40 people, supplies engineering firms and car-makers, including Bentley.
"I can think of hardly any customers that aren't busy and we have around 150 of them," he said.
"We haven't seen anything to make us think things are bad out there. The worry is that the newspapers and TV people like to talk things down."
However, many retailers have been hit hard as consumers have tightened their belts. Casualties have included Braunstone-based camera chain Cecil Jacobs and Clinton Cards, which both closed stores in the city and county after going into administration.
Irish Clothing, one of the oldest traders in the city centre, is closing one of its two stores because of stagnating sales.
Bosses are shutting the Highcross shop and merging the business with the firm's store on the corner of High Street and Silver Street.
Manager Tom Brown blamed a slowdown in spending by shoppers and growth of internet shopping.