Manufacturers in Birmingham and Solihull are turning to export sales to help them through the economic downturn, according to new figures.
The final quarterly economic survey of 2009 by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCI) revealed that the decline in manufacturers’ home sales almost doubled in the past three months – but exports leaped from 39 to 45 per cent.
The figures marked a gradual improvement on a year ago when companies reported that sales and forward orders had slumped by more than a half.
There was better news in the service sector, with a percentage balance of plus 14 per cent reporting an increase in sales and plus seven per cent reporting an upward trend in forward orders.
Commenting on the end-of-year survey, BCI president Paul Bassi said: “The fall in sales at home is worrying and underlines the tough market condition manufacturers are experiencing.
“Although in some cases figures are looking vastly better than a year ago, we are still operating at extremely low levels of profitability and turnover.
“But manufacturing is continuing to benefit from the weak pound and we hope their improved performance abroad will be sustained into the new year.
“The Chamber has prioritised its well-respected international activities, and important trade missions abroad have been lined up for 2010 to brief companies on how to change their markets and products.
“A major opportunity comes in January when the Chamber leads a sell-out trade mission to Auto Expo in New Delhi. Many West Midlands car component manufacturers and universities have registered, all showing a close interest in sales around low-carbon technology.”
Nearly two fifths (37 per cent) of manufacturers said their sales had dropped in the final quarter, compared with only 20 per cent in the previous quarter.
Unemployment in Birmingham has reached 51,497 and although 22 per cent of manufacturers said their workforce had decreased during the final quarter they were optimistic of being able to recruit during the next three months. Twenty per cent expected to be in the jobs market next year.
More than half (52 per cent) said their profitability had slumped in the past 12 months and this had a negative impact on firms’ investment intentions.