A survey conducted by manufacturers' organisation EEF, in conjunction with Aldermore, has revealed welcome indications that 2014 could solidify the return to form of UK manufacturing.
Evidence from 200 senior executives at British manufacturing businesses shows 70 per cent are optimistic about the prospects of UK manufacturing in 2014, confirming suggestions that confidence is growing within the sector. More encouragingly still, this figure compares with just 5 per cent who expect conditions to worsen, creating a balance of 65 per cent that is well in excess of the seven per cent balance witnessed at the beginning of 2013.
"At Aldermore we work closely with manufacturing clients across the country and are seeing first-hand what the findings of this report suggests," stated Aldermore's Deputy CEO Mark Stephens, reflecting on the improved outlook. "Clients are certainly more positive about the future of their businesses than this time 12 months ago, with a determination to capitalise on an improving UK market and to secure more business in new export markets."
In fact, EEF predicts UK manufacturers could attain growth rates of 2.7 per cent this year; faster than any other country in Western Europe including the renowned German industrial sector, forecast to grow at 1.6 per cent. This growth is expected to stem from strengthening UK exports, fuelled by increasing stability in the Eurozone, and greater investment from domestic firms, with 60 per cent planning to invest moderately or significantly.
Despite these favourable conditions, UK manufacturing activity remains 9 per-cent below its previous peak, leading EEF chief economist Lee Hopley to admit, "We are not yet where we want to be. There is still lots to do."
The organisation's Chief Executive Terry Scuoler also echoed this cautious approach, explaining;
"Global uncertainty and rising energy costs pose significant risks and the challenge for industry and government this year will be to get industry's investment plans over the line."
Improving access to finance for manufacturing firms of all sizes is likely to represent a crucial precursor to ensuring these investment intentions become a reality, and will be a particular focus for Aldermore throughout the year.
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