The quarterly Cairngorms Business Barometer report, produced by tourism market research specialists LJ Research for the Cairngorms Business Partnership, tracks business performance and sentiment across the iconic Cairngorms National Park.
The latest results for the fourth quarter of 2015 highlight varied levels of business performance, less steep cost increases compared to last year and a record high level of long term business confidence since the barometer began in Q3 2009.
Businesses that participated in the survey recorded a small overall decrease in customer numbers accompanied by a small overall increase in turnover compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. These results suggested more challenging trading conditions for businesses in the Park compared to the last two years. However, looking at levels of business over the next 12 months a more positive outlook compared to recent years was apparent.
There was continued growth of investment in staff training compared to last year and this trend is expected to continue for the year ahead. Meanwhile, businesses indicated slowing levels of investment in infrastructure and marketing compared to last year.
Staff, supplier and administration costs increased less steeply compared to last year and the average (for the fourth quarter of the year). Slowing supplier costs was particularly apparent with a record high proportion of businesses indicating unchanged or lower supplier costs compared to last year (54%).
Despite the challenging backdrop of Q4 2015, business confidence was above recent years with the long term (i.e. next 2 years) rate at its highest ever level since the Barometer began in Q3 2009.
Sean Morgan, Managing Director at LJ Research said: “It’s not surprising that businesses identified the adverse impact and challenges of weather in the Barometer this quarter as the Park area suffered above average levels of rainfall. The overall levels of business recorded show a relatively flat performance which in context can be viewed quite positively. Looking forward to the next 12 months, strong levels of business are apparent and this is echoed in the sentiment regarding medium and long term confidence. Slowing cost increases, most notably supplier cost reductions will help to also drive up confidence in the future.”
Mark Tate, Chief Executive at Cairngorms Business Partnership said: “It was a stormy end to 2015 and this has had an impact on business volumes during a critical trading period. Storms in December saw some businesses on the West of the National Park closed for the critical Christmas and New Year trading period whilst the well reported devastation caused by Storm Frank saw parts of Royal Deeside cut off with major disruption to transport and a long term impact on many businesses. However, the confidence reflected in the long term outlook of businesses surveyed demonstrates the outstanding resilience and ingenuity of businesses and communities in the Cairngorms National Park. We are definitely open for business in all areas of the park and ready to give our visitors a world class experience.