“Crisis” seems to be an overly prevalent theme across many parts of the UK economy even as the worst of the pandemic disruption seems behind us. While the lockdowns of early 2020 felt existential but likely to abate if we could get back to ‘normal’, the issues that have arisen since seem more entrenched and longer-lasting.
From the supply chain squeeze driven by a global explosion in post-pandemic demand to the additional pinch which Brexit has placed on so many UK industries, the number of markets that are under unprecedented pressure is growing weekly. Energy price spikes have placed more pressure on intensive markets such as steel and chemicals.
Elsewhere, uncertain macroeconomic conditions look likely to persist as central banks grapple with soaring inflation and domestic markets get caught up in increasingly fraught geopolitical wrangling. Plimsoll has analysed more than 1600 different UK markets. Take a look at some of the industries we think will be hitting the headlines soon:
Demand for leather, particularly for luggage, has been softened by the pandemic and the cessation of nights out and travel. However, demand is forecast to recover significantly as people increasingly look to resume holidays, business travel and spend time outside their homes. As the post-pandemic recovery takes hold, demand for leather luggage, apparel and accessories should recover strongly.
In the UK leather market, current conditions show a market struggling for sustainable growth, even before the pandemic hit travel and social industries. The latest Plimsoll Analysis on the UK industry shows that the market was at 0.1% growth in the year before COVID-19 with average profit margins hovering around 1% over the preceding 3 years.
As demand recovers, the leather market faces a host of other challenges including technological innovation and changing consumer trends. Bio-leather is projected to become a major threat to the established order and is estimated to generate sales of almost $700 billion by 2026. As climate consciousness goes increasingly mainstream, industrial cattle farming has an unacceptable carbon footprint. Will the market adapt to more sustainably derived leather and a shift in consumer demand, while coping with increased shipping and distribution costs?
The UK housebuilding market is facing a perfect storm of negative effects. After a seemingly endless supply of stimulus and favourable market conditions, the builders of the next generation of British homes could be set for a bumpy few years.
Cement prices are projected to soar by more than £15 a tonne as providers grapple with a global inflation spike and pass on increases to end-users. Hiring skilled labour from a much smaller post-Brexit pool is likely to see a spike in human costs and serious skills gap development. If, as expected, the BOE is inclined to tighten monetary policy in the face of persistent inflation, consumers ability to service the debt on the mortgage to buy a new build home is likely to be stymied.
According to the latest Plimsoll Analysis, growth in the housebuilding market before COVID-19 persistently breached 6% per annum. Profit margins over the last 5 years never fell below 5%. However, 735 of the 2000 house building companies included in the Plimsoll Analysis have been rated as Danger.
Since the financial crash of 2008, there have been a host of government-backed measures to support the UK housing market. Help To Buy, favourable land banking tax laws and liberalised planning schemes and recent near negative interest rates have all supported the market over the past decade and a half. As much of that support falls away, what next for the UK’s housebuilders?
Petrol Filling Stations
After seeing recent news headlines dominated by queues for fuel in response to leaked stories of potential shortages it might appear that the UK’s leading forecourt operators are enjoying a bumper period. The truth is much more nuanced.
Both independent and oil company-owned stations have been accused recently of inflating the price of petrol and talking up the crisis. The introduction of rules forcing 10% of petrol to be ethanol based has seen prices rise further as the alcohol-based compound is an expensively traded commodity.
Plimsoll has analysed the state of the UK forecourts market and found an industry making an average profit margin of just 2% over the past 5 years. Pre-pandemic growth in the market has averaged around 4%. 1 in 4 operators have been rated as Danger by Plimsoll. Are smaller, independent operators to blame for price gouging or with oil giants such as BP and Shell both posting profits of around US$4bn in Q1 2021, should the finger be pointed elsewhere?
With the increasing adoption of electric vehicles and a societal acceptance that fossil fuels must be phased out to save the planet, what next of the UK fuel forecourt market? As the charging network grows, those that adopt and adapt the best will be those that will thrive in the electric future.
There will be many stories that emerge in 2022 that nobody forecasts - whether it’s a consequence of climate emergency, the worsening political fallout from Brexit, inflation running out of control, a collapse in consumer confidence or another calamity. The key to surviving a crisis is, whatever your market, to prepare your own company and understand those whom you compete with. In all previous crises, the weak are most likely to fail and the strong are those that often thrive.
Plimsoll provides individual assessments on more than 1600 different UK markets. We make the process of benchmarking your company and assessing those around you a simple task. In minutes rather than months, our easy to use graphical and written analysis will lay out all the insight you need to ensure your company is prepared for 2022.
For more information and to search for your market, please visit www.plimsoll.co.uk.