Hot on the heels of a highly rhetorical speech by the PM at the end of the Labour party conference and on the morning when the Sun newspaper switches political sides after 12 years I find myself wondering what the immediate future holds for a SME, particlularly one specialising in the food industry. Just looking at today’s media there are so many mixed messages; some indicating that we are seeing the green shoots of recovery, some showing a plummet in food and drink spending and one which really cheered me up.
The good news…
According to recruitment expert Focus Management the UK food job market has seen an upturn in recent months. It is no longer a buyers market for those in the hiring seat. The food sector is not entirely immune but is often somewhat protected in a recession, since food is a basic human need, however it often responds more quickly to the signs of recovery than other industries. Following the crash in October 2008 there was an overall dip in recruitment in the sector but since June there has been a definite uplift in the UK and new business is up on last year too. The most vacancies are in operations, manufacturing and technical management at the moment, followed by product development and commercial (sales and marketing).
Marks & Spencer has put an end to the decline in its food sales that has lasted for nearly 2 years, with executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose suggesting consumer confidence has already ‘bottomed out’. As the result of returning confidence at its Simply Food stores, the retailer revised its financial forecasts for the year ahead.
The bad news…
Food and drink spending has fallen to its lowest level since 1977 as the result of recessionary belt-tightening. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that spending on groceries has fallen by 4.6% over the past year.
The best news…
In the face of declining drink sales, negative publicity surrounding binge drinking and 24 hour licensing one small brewery has been really creative in coming up with a new product – which I predict will be very successful. Unicorn Brewery in Cheshire has begun making alcopops that do not contain any alcohol. Made from hops and malts, ‘soft brews’ look like beer and have a frothy head, and come in a range of different fruit flavours.
I’ll drink to that!!!
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