A RAFT of business surveys and reports have provided conclusive evidence that South Lakeland is finally trading its way out of recession.
Companies ranging from sole traders to multi-national manufacturers have revealed increasing confidence as part of the area’s economic resurgence after the five-year downturn.
One study, unveiled in Westminster at an event to promote Cumbrian enterprise, showed that the county was now the fourth fastest growing manufacturing sub-region in the UK.
And a survey of micro-businesses suggested that companies in Cumbria were on average 68 per cent more confident about doing business in the UK compared to this time last year.
Most sectors appear to be seeing improvements in business outlook with a regional Optimism Index showing confidence in the region as a whole at its highest level in 22 years.
George Beveridge, chairman of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said the outlook was positive. He said: “Figures from the latest Chamber Quarterly Economic Survey indicate that 54 per cent of businesses are expecting to increase turnover in the coming year, with only six per cent forecasting a reduction.
“Forty-three per cent expect profitability to improve, only ten per cent anticipate a decline, and 31 per cent have reviewed their capital investment plans.”
One success story is Lindal-in-Furness candle maker Wax Lyrical, which sells around 40 per cent of its products abroad.
Marketing director Richard Wood said: “Towards the second half of 2013 we saw strong sales which had underpinned a good strong first half.
“This growth was from mulitple channels, from garden centres to high street stores in the UK, and strong growth from our export partners – particularly to Russia, the United Arab Emirates and America.”
A Lake District micro-business benefitting from the upturn is Windermere-based Icicle, which organises adventure holidays.
Owner Kingsley Jones said: “We’ve expanded our ski and climbing trips for 2014 in reaction to the positive growth in consumer spending. People are planning trips further in advance.”
The hospitality sector is also showing signs of improvement, with Lake District hotels attracting interest from overseas buyers. Keswick Park in Keswick town centre was sold to a Chinese investor for close to £1m.
Haydn Spelling, of agents Colliers International, said there was increasing interest in popular destinations outside London.
There is also evidence that retail confidence is growing, particularly in Kendal where the number of empty shops reduced in the last quarter from 60 to 52.
South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet added to the optimism yesterday by voting to provide £1m business rate relief And Kendal’s general economy was also being viewed optimistically. Kendal Futures chairman Peter Hensman said that investment from new and existing businesses was ‘supporting jobs and helping the attractive town centre to thrive’.