This is an extract from this week’s ‘Any Other Business’ column.
The UK economy grew just 0.1 per cent in the first quarter, says the ONS, reflecting low construction activity, sluggish manufacturing, squeezed consumers, Brexit uncertainties and bitter weather. That’s the worst quarter since 2012 — so no wonder I had such a feeble response to my call a fortnight ago for evidence of feelgood. Two readers broke through the gloom, however.
The first is a veteran banker who lends to small-to-medium UK corporate borrowers and describes himself as ‘miserable, cynical and pessimistic’ by nature and experience. But ‘to my pleasant surprise we’re seeing strong demand from a variety of businesses with one thing in common; they have thrived in spite of macroeconomic conditions and are universally positive about the outlook. They have sound plans, good track records and all the attributes necessary to support their lending proposals.’
The second is Jermyn Street shirtmaker Emma Willis: ‘Trade has never been better… Manufacturers like us are now able to communicate with customers at the other end of the world through technology which is a powerful, cheap marketing tool.’ As for the supposed shortage of skills, ‘We have no problem attracting young fashion graduates and college leavers to our Gloucester factory to learn to sew and cut to a very high standard; there’s no longer a strong draw to London, which has become unaffordable to many. My main aim is to create as many jobs as possible and grow our manufacturing through the international appetite for high quality, authentic, British-made product. We’ve been approached by potential agents in China and South Korea — maybe soon to include the North too!’ Kim Jong-un in Jermyn Street shirting? Now there’s a reason to be cheerful.