My Column

No company is too big to fail....

  • Date: Monday 21st October 2019
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The news that there has been a 40 per cent rise in the number of UK businesses facing serious difficulty in the three years since the EU referendum is saddening, if not entirely surprising.

Actually, if I'm being entirely honest, it's not even remotely surprising.

A report by insolvency specialists at Begbies Traynor has revealed that a staggering 489,000 companies are now in significant distress. Property, construction, retail and the travel sectors are suffering the most, but this is a huge issue across the board.

There's no denying just how much of a difficult time it's been for companies and I'm regularly hearing complaints that they feel they have been left hanging over what the future holds in the whole Brexit process.

Let's be honest, we're all worried about the problems caused by the uncertainty of our split from Europe, so the longer it rumbles on, the more of a negative impact it has.

Businesses are in a position where they literally can't plan for the future, which is potentially catastrophic for a company no matter who they are.

Make no mistake - nobody is too big to fail.

Just look at the changing face of the Scottish high street over the last few years if you need any examples. Thomas Cook, Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld are all recent victims of an insecure marketplace but each one was a hugely-established brand.

Of course, Brexit uncertainty isn't the only issue at play here.

Online spending, lack of footfall and just general changes in taste are all factors retailers have to be aware of and react to if they are to stand any hope of surviving in an ever-more competitive world.

Regardless of industry, all businesses have similar concerns and challenges, so to expect them to weather the storm of vagueness that is our current situation with Europe is naive at best.

Despite this, companies have been trying their best to future-proof themselves and anticipate the changes that will inevitably make a huge impact on every aspect of their business. When you don't even know if the deals you already have in place will still be valid after a withdrawal though, just how much planning can you do?

The business community has been waiting with baited breath for a deal to be struck between the UK government and the EU which is ultimately agreed in Parliament. Crucially though, if the country does indeed exit Europe, we are hoping and praying for the most orderly exit possible.

The simple fact is, the longer the whole situation drags on, the harder it becomes to keep your head above water, no matter what level you are operating at. We've had three years of this now and the impact is there for all to see.

Leaders on all sides have reiterated how keen they are to bring an end to the whole sorry saga, but unfortunately none of them can agree on just how that will happen. I often find myself watching the endless debates and power-plays with my head in my hands as a result.

That this sorry spectacle is still dragging on three years down the line is shameful and we are all paying the price.

Scotland's position in a post-Brexit business climate is potentially even more up in the air than other areas of the UK.

Depending on what happens with the British border in Ireland, we could find ourselves struggling to compete with a Northern Ireland who have a unique deal with our former trading partners in Europe.

Let's hope that our elected representatives get their act together and do it soon, before any more companies fall by the wayside.

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LAUGH

I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard Poundland was giving away free ‘invisibility cloaks’ for Halloween.

The chain store hit headlines after announcing the cloacks, made famous by Harry Potter, even came with a complimentary hanger.

Apparently they were going to trial the item last year, but “couldn’t find it in the distribution centre”.

Very good – kudos for creating a fantastic publicity stunt in the run up to the spookiest time of the year.

Shoppers have been sharing pictures of the rack where the invisible cloaks are hanging and some of the comments on social media are hilarious.

 

WEEP

I felt deflated – yet not surprised - by reports that employment figures in Scotland had dropped further than any other part of the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed the number of people currently employed in Scotland fell this year by 1.4 per cent in the three months to August, compared to the previous quarter.

The findings show that 2.63 million people across Scotland were in employment between June and August. This represents a massive drop of 39,000 from the three months before.

It’s sad that this type of news is becoming all too familiar.

I’d love to see effective response plans being put in place to really tackle this issue – but amid all this uncertainty I fear it will get worse before it gets better.

 

 

SIDE

The rollout of 5G network in Edinburgh by O2 marked a significant milestone last week which will hopefully revolutionise the way businesses operate in the area.

I was delighted to discover that Scotland’s capital was one of the first cities in the UK to benefit from the mobile operator’s rollout – along with London, Belfast, Cardiff, Slough and Leeds. O2 has vowed to reach 20 locations by the end of the year.

The move has put Edinburgh’s place firmly on the map as one of the UK’s leading hubs for business and tourism. This is due to the fact that O2’s initial focus fell on bustling locations with heavy footfall, where speed is most needed.

We’ve all heard of 4G but if you’re not yet familiar with 5G, it’s the next generation of network technology. The new and improved software allows users to access the internet than faster speeds than ever before.

O2's launch follows that of fellow operators EE, Vodafone and Three, who each began their own rollouts to towns and cities around the country earlier this year.

The rollout in Edinburgh is being concentrated in the busy Haymarket area and it’s perfect timing too, considering the city’s population sky rockets during the winter months with visitors flocking to enjoy Christmas and Hogmanay festivities.

I’m sure it will be a welcome improvement during a time of increased footfall, when members of the public are using their phones to navigate the streets, keep tabs on transport and update their social media feeds.

5G presents a fantastic opportunity for local businesses. Looking forward, this new network could potentially change the way that organisations operate and revolutionise mobile connectivity for corporate use.

It’s an exciting prospect for Scotland. I hope that by the time the network is rolled out completely that it will help us to step up our infrastructure and further grow our economy in order to compete with more of the big global players.

 

 

 

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