British plastics industry ‘optimistic’ for 2017, despite Brexit concerns

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The British plastics companies are optimistic about the prospects of the industry within the next 12 months, according to the latest business conditions survey by the British Plastics Federation’s (BPF).

The biannual survey, conducted in January and February, showed that a record number of respondents (78%) were predicting “an increase in sales turnover over the next 12 months, with only 7% predicting a decrease.

Similarly, the survey which was completed by 102 members showed that 63% were predicting an increase in terms of export sales, a figure which is significantly higher than 28% a year ago.

In both cases the exchange rate was mentioned as a significant reason for this upswing. 

Whilst the survey showed slightly more muted predictions on profitability with 34% predicting an increase.

This is in comparison with 20% in the previous survey which was carried out immediately after the EU referendum vote in 2016.

The plastics industry also displayed bullish predictions in terms of recruitment, with 44% looking to increase staffing levels over the course of 2017.

However, a record 65% of companies stated they were having difficulties recruiting.

“The number [of companies having difficulty recruiting] has always been worryingly high and has averaged around 40% for the past four years. At 65%, this is the highest we have seen by quite some margin,” explained BPF director general Philip Law.

When asked about investment intentions, 31% stated that they plan to invest significantly. This shows a slight improvement compared to the previous survey.

“This shows that, despite uncertainty and the increased cost of investment caused by currency exchange rates, almost a third of the plastics industry is still looking to invest heavily in future endeavours, while a further 56% claim they will ‘invest a little’,” added Law.

The previous survey, noted Law, was carried out immediately following the EU referendum vote and the picture it painted was pessimistic.

“It could be argued that it showed a knee-jerk reaction as people reeled from the uncertain ramifications of Brexit,” he said.

According to Law, the recent survey highlights a more optimistic outlook, “despite the industry being little wiser regarding the impact leaving the EU will have.” 

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