AS a county so heavily reliant on tourism and hospitality it is good to finally see the staged opening of businesses within this key sector of our county’s economy.

Somerset firms and organisations have expressed concerns that the all-important cash flow, so vital to keeping a viable trading model, is now stretched incredibly thin. For many, any move to implement a fourth lockdown will, simply put, finish them.

The welcome re-opening of our high streets and tourism sector is set against a backdrop of detail from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), which suggests that UK economic conditions remained weak in Q1 2021. In the services sector, the balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales rose to -18% in Q1, up from -24% in Q4 2020.

In the manufacturing sector, the balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales rose to -6% in Q1 2021. Consumer focused services companies saw falls, with 83% of hospitality and catering firms reporting decreases in sales in Q1.

More positively for the Somerset economy, the BCC’s latest QES also revealed that business confidence has been boosted in Q1 2021, amid the strong vaccine rollout and the Government’s roadmap providing some ability to forward plan.

In the services sector, the balance of firms expecting turnover to increase over the next 12 months rose to +24% in Q1 2021. I do, however, reiterate what Somerset businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector are telling the Chamber: “Give us a staged re-opening plan but don’t shut us down again.”

Somerset Chamber is also pleased to see continued financial support for our county’s firms and businesses through the Government’s £1.5bn Business Rates relief fund.

Somerset Chamber of Commerce