Guest Blogger - Andrew Davies
Life Goes On
It's funny how the slow return to normality doesn't get quite as much attention as the sudden plunge into unknown territory.
This time last year the world was on the brink of financial collapse and we were all going to burn in the hellish fire of damnation brought on by an orgy of spending and buy-now-pay-later.
Now, in the middle of the first month of the new decade, the shocks and surprises have turned into everyday normality for those who have managed to get this far - the new decreased retail market is what it is and we just have to get on with it.
So while the earthquake in Haiti puts the 'arctic' weather that 'gripped' the country into an embarrassing perspective the business news has slipped backed down the national running order.
But in there are the, dare I say it, green shoots of recovery if not springing up but at least pushing some soil out of the way.
For example, last week the British Chamber of Commerce said the UK was "on the brink of leaving recession" - while warning that recovery was not certain.
Elsewhere the British Retail Consortium said stores had seen their best December growth for eight years. Experian, the information services company, said the financial health of businesses in the UK saw a "significant improvement" in 2009, while the annual rate of insolvencies increased at a slower rate compared to 2008. However this is almost certainly down to a very strong second half of the year averaging out a very poor first half.
The average financial strength score for businesses improved steadily throughout 2009 - rising from 79.46 in January 2009 to 81.37 in December 2009. According to Experian, this has been helped by an overall improvement in the time it takes businesses to pay their suppliers.
Despite peaking in the year in the first half of 2009, the sharp fall in business failures during the second half of the year helped alleviate the final number of insolvencies in 2009. Total insolvencies increased by only 12% during last year, compared to the 29.3% increase during 2008.
Since the start of 2010 in our own industry, positive results from Homebase - who again highlighted kitchens and bathrooms as growth areas - as well as a not-as-bad-as-expected report from bathroom retail franchise group Ripples have also suggested that the worst is past.
And anecdotal evidence I hear from around the industry suggests most people are feeling more confident about operating in the new market with a degree of stability - the journalistic rule of thumb where the more events we go to equals the better the industry is doing is also proving itself reliable too.
Don't get me wrong, it's still bad and there's a long way to go before we ever approach pre-2007 levels again but there's a definite feeling that we're over the worst and now that we know the new boundaries - and we're confident it's not getting any worse - life goes on.
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