Resilient businesses offer hope – business news 25 March 2021.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Resilient businesses offer hope, IHS Markit/CIPS report shows signs of growth, retailers to take action on diversity, Wickes de-merger, self employed more stressed over IR35 and house prices.

More resilient businesses will be the great hope for the next decade

Writing in City AM, Michelle Ovens, the founder of Small Business Britain, considers the lessons small businesses will have learnt over this past year. Although the Covid crisis was painful to go through, “it will be the bedrock of recovery and future growth,” she says. Resilient businesses became more flexible as they adapted to lock downs and then restrictions lifting, supply chains became more localised while marketing and finance functions were automated and social media was utilised to the maximum. “COVID-19 has managed to do what years of intervention from government, business organisations, business schools and more could not: create a more productive business landscape,” Owens contends, adding: “More resilient businesses with greater digital skills and the knowledge that they have come through the fight of their lives will form the basis of economic recovery in the UK.”

IHS Markit/CIPS report shows signs of growth

The IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI report for March was 56.6, up from 49.5 in February, as the economy showed strong signs of growth amid increasing consumer confidence and more demand for residential property services. Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said the strong sentiment “hints at only a modest contraction of GDP during the first quarter, adding to evidence that the economy has shown far greater resilience in the third lockdown compared to the first.” In the eurozone business activity returned to growth in March, fuelled by a record increase in manufacturing output as global demand continued to revive from the pandemic.


DIY chain Wickes, which is being demerged from building trade retailer Travis Perkins, forecast strong full-year sales growth ahead of launching its public listing as a standalone firm. The home improvement sector has performed well during the pandemic as Britons have spent more time at home, have had fewer leisure options and have travelled less.

Report force retailers to take ‘decisive action’ on diversity

A study of over 200 retailers by the British Retail Consortium, PwC and MBS Group reveals that 69% have only men in their top three leadership positions. More than one in five retailers have no women on their boards, and 15% have no women on their executive committees. This is despite women making up 58% of the retail workforce. Black or ethnic minority executives make only 4.5% of retail boards, compared with 12.5% of the general UK population. The report has prompted over 50 retailers, including John Lewis, Asda and Sainsbury’s to pledge “decisive action” to improve diversity. Alongside Morrison’s, WHSmith and Boots, they have signed up to the Diversity and Inclusion charter drawn up by the BRC to pledge their commitment to address the issue. Katy Bennett, director for inclusion and diversity consulting at PwC UK, said: “It’s very encouraging to see so many retail companies committed to improving their diversity and inclusion at a time when issues surrounding gender, race and ethnicity in the workplace are in sharp focus.”

Self-employed face increased stresses with tax changes

IR35 tax changes will be introduced from April 6th meaning off-payroll workers will be treated as full-time employees with companies responsible for setting the tax status of contractors they hire. Experts warn that many freelancers are unprepared for the changes while interest in IR35 fell 71% since the Chancellor announcement last year that the tax change would be delayed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, changes announced by Rishi Sunak on Tax Day could add further pressure to contractors with the Treasury saying they will review the feasibility of introducing a modern “pay-as-you-go” tax system. The Association of Taxation Technicians said that although some taxpayers may welcome the opportunity to pay their tax closer to real time, “a widespread move to more frequent, in-year calculation of income tax and corporation tax is very tricky to achieve.”

House prices climb 7.5% in England

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the average house price fell by £1,000 in January, from a record high the previous month. The average property value across the country in January stood at £249,000. Mark Harris, CEO of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, commented: “The housing market continued to be buoyant in January, although annual growth slipped slightly to 7.5%, down from 8% in December. This was before the Chancellor announced the extension to the stamp duty holiday so there may have been buyers who took their foot off the gas in the belief that they were too late to take advantage.” House prices in the capital rose 0.1% in January to reach £501,320, representing an annual rate of increase of 5.3%.

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