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rapanuicowesDespite recent economic surveys reporting a slight dip in manufacturing performance, it appears the smaller firms on the Isle of Wight are still confident of growth according to the latest MAS Barometer; the largest survey of its kind amongst manufacturers in England.

The findings show that small manufacturers will make the most of a strengthening UK economy by focusing on home markets for their future growth.  Over two thirds (67%) of companies questioned feel that increasing sales in the UK is offering them the best chance to expand. This was followed by new product development, improving production processes and over a third of firms (36%) are focused on boosting their export performance.

Similar to the last quarter, more than half of firms (55%) are looking to recruit and create new jobs, which is a record figure and a 12% rise on 2013. There also appears to be significant confidence in longer-term growth as respondents predict a 64% rise in collective turnover and staffing levels to increase by 32% over the next four years.

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Cowes-based Rapanui make fashion clothing from organic fabrics and in March this year brought back an element of its production by opening a new screen printing production facility.

Rob Drake-Knight, co-owner says:

“The move to Cowes and investment in our clothing printing and embroidery equipment has led to significant growth in our B2B sales, we’re now making uniforms and marketing clothing using the same sustainable supply chain as our fashion brand for national brands and retailers. Our staff levels have doubled and we’re pressing on to continue to continue the growth curve.”

Steven Barr, Head of the Manufacturing Advisory Service explains:

“As part of the long-term focus, we asked respondents about their biggest strengths, with the quality of senior leadership teams (68%) coming out on top, followed by innovative products (66%) and robust strategy (61%).

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“The biggest challenge stills is access to skills (71%), whilst marketing and creating effective sales channels were the next major concerns. We will work with partners like GrowthAccelerator and SEMTA to help SME manufacturers overcome these challenges.”

The Barometer results report 61% of companies increasing sales in the last six months and 76% expecting to grow between now and the end of the year – 8% and 9% improvements respectively on this time last year.

Steven concludes:

“Everything we monitor, including sales, future growth, jobs and investment, are all up across the board so we can see the short-term outlook is very positive. Thanks to our specific focus this quarter, we also know there is longer-term confidence and the areas of concern manufacturers need support to address.”

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