A leading Sheffield business boss has called on the city to focus more on international trade in the wake of a new survey.
The British Chambers of Commerce first Quarterly Economic Survey of the year shows that manufacturing and services firms reported slightly weaker growth for the start of 2015.
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Wright says the figures are a reminder of the need to trade more profitably with the rest of the world.
The survey, based on more than 7,500 responses from firms employing around 850,000 people nationwide, shows the economy is growing, but balances are lower in export sales and investment.
Domestic orders and sales were up in both manufacturing and services, but not as sharply as last year. For example, manufacturing’s domestic sales grew 30 per cent, but the growth is lower than the 36 per cent seen in quarter four of 2014.
Manufacturing export sales dropped by seven points to 19 per cent growth, while service exports fell by one point to being 21 per cent up.
Mr Wright said: “National results show continuing reasons for optimism but the results for export orders and sales are worrying if they continue.
“The only way out of the UK’s current difficulties is to trade more profitably with the rest of the world and to reverse the trade deficit so we can start to pay off the national debt.”
Andrew Denniff, chief executive at Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is not a surprise to see slightly weaker numbers at the start of the year, after a very strong fourth quarter for many firms. Crucially, the chambers’ survey demonstrates that businesses remain optimistic, though they expect to grow at a slightly slower rate over the coming months.
“The conclusions are by no means a cause for alarm, but they are a big reminder that we still face obstacles on the path to sustainable, long-term growth.”
BCC director John Longworth visited Sheffield this month to find out how the South Yorkshire International Trade Centre has exploited opportunities offered by the BCC’s Overseas Business Network, which has helped 258 business people get in touch with overseas contacts.
Mr Wright added: “Sheffield Chamber has made profitable international trade growth one of its highest priorities in the region.
“We need to trade more, and at a larger net surplus, with the rest of the world.
“The money coming in will flow down and support all the other economic sectors in the region, including retail, education and construction.
“For too long international trade support has been process driven.
“It needs to be more quality driven where the only important outcome is growth in profitable trade.
“That’s where we focus and it’s amazing what results we can achieve if we do that.”