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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

NUMBER OF SCOTTISH BUSINESSES EXPORTING FALLS

The number of Scottish businesses that currently export their goods or services has fallen to less than a third in the last six months, according to the latest Business in Britain report from the Bank of Scotland.

While only one in four (24 per cent) firms now say they have taken a strategic decision not to export, down slightly from 26 per cent in June 2017, the number that are currently exporting has fallen by eight points to 29 per cent, from 37 per cent last summer.

Across the UK, 40 per cent of firms now export, down only four points compared with six months ago.

Volatile currency rates were the biggest factor affecting firms’ decisions to trade overseas, with 26 per cent saying the biggest barrier to exporting is exchange rate uncertainty, followed by tariffs and quotas (cited by 10 per cent) and cost including transportation and port entry taxes (cited by seven per cent).

Looking beyond exporting alone, a net balance of 17 per cent of all businesses across Scotland also say the fall in the value of the pound is bad for the economy, while 20 per cent say it’s bad for their business.

The Business in Britain report, now in its 26th year, gathers the views of more than 1,500 UK companies, including 125 in Scotland, and tracks a range of performance and confidence measures.

However, it found that, among those that are already trading overseas, exporters in Scotland are buoyant about their 2018 trade prospects with a net balance of 17 per cent expecting overseas sales to increase over the next six months.

This is on the back of a strong end to 2017 in which a net balance of 19 per cent said their international trade had increased in the second half of the year. 

While some are facing new challenges, with 25 per cent of Scotland’s exporters have decided to focus more on UK sales in light of Brexit, most are optimistic about what lies ahead.

Simon Quin, Scotland, area director for Global Transaction Banking, SME at Bank of Scotland, said: “The majority of Scotland’s exporters still see international trade playing an important role in their plans, despite the continued climate of domestic and international uncertainty.

“Judging from Scottish firms’ export performances over the previous six months, this confidence is not misplaced and by using internal trade as a growth strategy for their business British firms can also manage risk during periods of uncertainty.”

International markets

Based on their current overseas trading, the current most popular partner countries for Scottish exporters are the USA with 17 per cent and Brazil, China, France, Germany, Ireland and Norway, all with eight per cent of exporters respectively trading with these countries.

The country exporters in Scotland see as their biggest opportunity for international trade is China (25 per cent), followed by the USA (22 per cent) and Germany (eight per cent).  

Simon Quin added: “The fact that Scottish exporters see China as offering the biggest opportunity in future shows that they are looking to pre-emptively tackle the impact of a potential loss of access to the EU single market.

“Trading overseas can feel intimidating, but with Scottish food and drink in particular enjoying an enviable reputation across the word, and the fact that the fall in the value of the pound makes a lot of British exports more attractive overseas, it’s clear there are opportunities for Scottish exporters to prosper globally with the right support.

“The Bank of Scotland is here to help, and our strategic partnership with the Department for International Trade as well as teams of Scottish-based relationship managers can provide the kind of insight, support and introductions that can be invaluable to firms setting out on, or expanding, their export journey.

“To support customers further we also provide access to our International Trade Portal which helps both current and prospective exporters understand the best market for their product or service, the trading requirements and conditions for that market, as well as buyers or suppliers they may wish to work with the Bank of Scotland can also help customers manage other risks associated with international trade, for example foreign exchange risk. It’s a big step in the right direction to help new or experienced exporters navigate the sometimes tricky international trading waters.”

 

Alister Jack hands over results from Broadband Survey

Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack has met with the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt. Hon Matt Hancock MP, and handed over the results from his broadband survey.

The local MP asked constituents to respond to a series of questions using an online survey on his website about their broadband service.

On the question of broadband speed the results were are follows:

Under 2mbps:                         46.2%

Under 10mbps:                       5.6%

Between 2mbps – 5mbps:       23.9%

Between 5mbps – 10mbps:     10.5%

Between 10mbps – 15mbps:   4.6%

Between 15mbps – 20mbps:   3%

More than 20mbps:                 6.2%

When respondents were asked what they used their broadband service for 57% said they used it for business purposes.

Alister Jack said, “I want to thank everyone who responded to my broadband survey. 

“This is one of the biggest issues that I am contacted about and I was pleased that Matt Hancock took the time to meet with me and receive the results personally.

“There is no doubt that poor broadband speeds is a huge impediment to economic growth here in Dumfries and Galloway.  Many small and medium sized businesses, the vast majority of which are independent traders, rely on their broadband connections to do business, and it is very frustrating when they cannot access the necessary speeds to do so.

“For many people in my constituency a decent broadband connection is a luxury.  People want and deserve better and I will continue to use my role in Parliament to campaign for greater improvements to our broadband infrastructure.”

Upon receiving the survey results Mr Hancock said, “I was pleased to receive the results from Alister’s very successful broadband survey in his Constituency, which my department will review.  I fully recognise the importance of a fast and reliable broadband connection, particularly in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway. The UK Government are fully committed to ensuring that 100% of properties have access to superfast broadband by 2020.  It is disappointing that the Scottish Government have missed their target of 95% in a number of areas of the country, including in Dumfries and Galloway, and that is why the third tranche of funding will be distributed straight to Local Authorities.”

A large number of respondents included additional comments with their submissions.  A few of these are copied below.

“Very slow and has a lot of drop outs on a daily basis. Had engineers out numerous times but never seems to improve much. Broadband download speed are rarely above 1.2mb/s which makes doing anything online very slow and sometimes impossible.”

“We run a small engineering business and have to rely totally on the internet to be able to download tender documents etc. and are finding it practically impossible. Our Broadband provider has informed us that our bad service is because of our rural location and our distance from an outdate exchange.”

“It sometimes sits at 0.2 and drops altogether 6 to 10 times a day. My kids are at a disadvantage and put under extra pressure with assignments and deadlines at school. Often meaning late night struggling re setting the router all the time.”

“The Broadband service to our property is disgraceful. We pay for a service which we do not receive most of the time. I run a small business which is my only source of income and this relies on internet access and a decent speed. This is just not happening. This year (2017) I have lost 3 weeks of business due to faults on the line, slow speed and the lack of help from BT.”

More services to tackle poverty in D&G

Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service (D&G CAS) are delighted to announce the appointment of additional staff in Bureaux across the region to support people affected by poverty. They have also appointed a new Volunteer Development Officer based at their Dumfries HQ to support the Bureaux management teams across the region to recruit, develop and retain high quality volunteers. All of these new posts are funded through the Scottish Government and European Social Fund’s Aspiring Communities Fund.

Sue Irving, Chief Executive of D&G CAS said,

“We are very excited to have secured this funding. These are key appointments for the organisation as they add additional capability and value to our already broad breadth of issues we deal with. Poverty in all its forms is a very real and significant problem across Dumfries and Galloway. By having skilled and knowledgeable staff available across the entire region, we will support people to identify solutions to the issues they face.

 

In addition our volunteers are the backbone of our organisation. They are usually the first point of contact for the public to gain advice and assistance on the issues they face. To continue to provide an effective service we require more volunteers, not just as Advisers but in a variety of other roles. Our Volunteer Development Officer, Phil Stewart, who is based at our Dumfries Office, will support the recruitment of volunteers from right across the Region”.

If you need advice on poverty issues or any other matter then please call into your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau or call us on 0300 303 4321. If you are interested in volunteering at one of our bureaux in Annan, Dumfries, Castle Douglas or Stranraer then please get in touch with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.dagcas.org, www.cas.org.uk, call us on 0300 303 4321 or pop in to your local bureau.

Armstrong Watson Acquires Haines Watts Glasgow Office

Armstrong Watson, Accountants, Business and Financial Advisers have acquired Haines Watts Glasgow office as part of their plans to expand the business across Scotland and the North of England.

The merger took effect 1st February 2018, strengthening the firm’s position as a leading advisor to aspirational business owners in the city and in line with Armstrong Watson’s strategic aim to become the ‘go to firm for family and owner managed businesses in the North of England and Scotland’.

The Glasgow office will offer Accounting, Audit, Tax, Corporate Finance, Insolvency, Forensic and Financial Planning services and will involve the amalgamation of the existing Armstrong Watson Glasgow branch from their Queen Street base into the new Blythswood Square office.

As a result of the acquisition, Richard Gibson, Ian Durie and Jim Lockhart all join Armstrong Watson as Partners.

Richard Gibson - heads the office as the Lead Partner for Glasgow and continues as an Audit Partner within the Audit & Assurance service line.

Ian Durie - joins the Corporate Finance team becoming the Corporate Finance Partner for Scotland.

Jim Lockhart, a Chartered Accountant and Tax Adviser, joins as an Accounting Partner.

Commenting on the acquisition, Paul Dickson Armstrong Watson Chief Executive Officer, said,

“The acquisition of the Glasgow office with Richard, Jim, Ian and the wider team joining Armstrong Watson provides us with a strong platform for growing an exciting and dynamic business in the city, and combines two firms of similar culture, with complementary practice strengths and sector expertise.

Our Glasgow capability has always been an important focus in our expansion plans. This deal is a culmination of continued growth, both organic and through acquisition, cementing our position both in the central belt and across Scotland and the North of England as the ‘go to’ firm for family and owner managed businesses.  I am really excited for the team in Glasgow under the leadership of Richard, Jim and Ian to build a strong and dynamic proposition that will see Armstrong Watson help business owners in Scotland run more successful and profitable businesses.”

Glasgow Lead Office Partner, Richard Gibson, added,

“Joining Armstrong Watson is a fantastic opportunity for both our clients and the Glasgow team. Not only do our skills, resources and culture complement each other, but having an increasing range of specialists and advisers will ensure that we continue to offer businesses the tailored, proactive support and advice essential for profit and growth.”

Equip4Work bought by German Company

TAKKT AG has acquired 100 percent of the shares of Equip4Work Ltd.
Signing and closing of the transaction took place on January 29. The company
generated sales of roughly 40 millionpounds and an EBITDA margin in the low double-digit percentage range in the 2016/2017
financial year. It will become part of the newport group founded at the
beginning of January within the TAKKT EUROPE segment.*Equip4Work, founded in 2004, sells office furniture such as desks, chairs and
cabinets in the United Kingdom under its primary sales brand OfficeFurnitureOnline.
It also sells warehouse and business equipment under the sales brand
Equip4Work. The company places strong emphasis on privatelabel brands and offers an attractive range of products in the affordable value
for money segment as well as higher-scale branded furniture. Products are sold
online. OfficeFurnitureOnline, headquartered in Dumfries, Scotland, is highly
successful in customer acquisition in its web shop and has built aloyal customer base of primarily smaller to medium-sized companies. OfficeFurnitureOnline
is thus now one of the leading online retailers for office furniture in the United Kingdom."The focus on successful online sales, a great deal of expertise in private
label brands, the attractive range of products and an excellent team of employees make OfficeFurnitureOnline a great addition to our newly created newport group.
This acquisition is the next step for us in our portfolio strategy to strengthen online activities," Felix Zimmermann, CEO of TAKKT AG, commented.The purchase price, on a cash free, debt free basis, amounted to GBP 35 million.
In addition to that, a further potential and variable purchase price component (earn out) of up to GBP ten million was agreed. This earn-out depends on the achievement of certain performance goals for the company over the next three
years, and would be payable in 2021. The company will continue to be managed by the family that founded and owned the company, with Martin and Michael
Hutchinson as representatives. "We are very happy to have found a partner in TAKKT who will help us to continue and expand the strong growth of recent years. We believe that the cooperation and exchange with the other companies of TAKKT and the newport group will provide many exciting opportunities for both sides," said Martin Hutchinson