London retailers optimisticMonday, 14 December 2009
The poll of senior executives shows that most firms still think the capital is a good place to do business, and more think so now (86 per cent) than when the last survey was conducted in April (80%). Business performance has also improved, with fewer reporting falling business values (36 per cent) than six months ago (59 per cent).
Forty seven per cent of firms are optimistic about their future business prospects, which is the highest proportion since April 2008 (30 per cent).
However, a perceived lack of government action on issues such as transport and skills, falling public sector investment and an overly burdensome tax and regulatory regime are seen by firms as threatening London’s attractiveness as a place to invest and do business. While a quarter of respondents say they see London’s status improving in five years, another quarter think its standing will shrink compared with cities such as New York, Paris, Tokyo or Mumbai, and half say it will simply remain where it is.
Firms remain cautious about their investment plans. A third (30 per cent) plan to cut back on recruitment and training and a further third (31 per cent) on IT infrastructure, equipment, plant and machinery.
The tenth biannual CBI / KMPG survey shows London’s businesses have used a variety of human resources strategies to retain skilled staff and survive during the recession. New questions in the survey reveal that, while over half (53 per cent) have been forced to make redundancies, staff have also been working with their employers to implement policies such as only recruiting when essential (63 per cent), using HR policies to cut costs like expenses (37 per cent) and putting a freeze on hiring altogether (26 per cent).
This is a critical time to hold on to the skills we have and firms see the business-led London Skills & Employment Board, chaired by the Mayor as playing an important role with three key priorities: working closely with employers to support their needs; tackling youth unemployment; simplifying the skills services on offer.
The vast majority of firms (92 per cent) think the 2012 Olympic Games is a good way to promote London internationally. Two-thirds think it will boost visitors’ experience of the city and a good proportion (61 per cent) believes it will lead to regeneration. Fewer than a third (30 per cent) feel the Games will strengthen the capital’s skills base, however, and just 42 per cent see direct business opportunities for their own organisation.
Richard Reid, London Chairman of KPMG, said: "Whilst it is encouraging to see London’s businesses feeling more confident, it is important that the lessons learned over the last two years are kept at a high priority for all companies. It is also important that policy makers and the Government pay close attention to maintaining our position as a global financial centre as the world slowly starts to emerge from recession. The Capital is facing challenges on many fronts; not just from the tough economic conditions but from new emerging financial centres, and there is real concern of a regulatory backlash that could make the City less attractive to overseas investors and businesses. "Whilst an appropriate regulatory framework is critical for business success in a competitive world economy, policy makers need to ensure that they don’t hamper London’s ability to compete with other global centres by rushing in a raft of new rules which ties businesses in knots. London also needs to take a lead in Europe in helping the EU to emerge from recession in a much stronger position."