It is beyond doubt that the biggest event in 2016 in terms of its impact on our business and the business of our clients was the outcome of the EU Referendum on Thursday, June 23rd.
It is not the politicians or the bureaucrats in Brussels who have changed the face of our country politically, socially and economically it is the people who voted for Brexit.
Whilst the referendum result sent short term shock waves across the globe and our financial institutions, the status quo seems to have returned. The weakening of the pound and increase in inflation certainly has impacted on the business of some of our clients, others have seen an increase in demand for their goods overseas.
For some the uncertainty around what Brexit means and how it might impact them and their business has given rise to deferred investment decisions as well as the curtailing of recruitment.
For some and not least those businesses involved in agriculture or reliant on a migrant workforce, labour shortages have increased with those coming to the UK for work now returning home.
The weakening of the pound has devalued the rewards of their labour, which is in part the reason for them to leave, along with uncertainty over the long term employment status here when the UK leaves the EU.
The upside perhaps has been the fact that consumer spending has not faltered and in fact has increased. This is a reflection on the relatively strong economy the country was in and has continued to be in, albeit with a reduction on economic forecast since the referendum.
Whilst at the time of writing this there is little information or hard data on consumer spending over the festive season, it would appear it has been strong, particularly for those businesses selling online.
The more traditional retailers with physical shops, including department stores, may see a continued decline in store sales. Success amongst our retail clients is undoubtedly increasingly reliant on a multi channel approach, including in store, online and click and collect offerings.
Perhaps this is a seamless link to the continued use and power of digital technology and social media. Whilst for the first time Apple has experienced less interest and take up in its iPhone 7 and Samsung has had issues over ‘exploding’ batteries, social media continued to see new bounds.
In particular Donald Trump successfully embraced the new media to win the US presidential election, spending significantly less than his opponent on campaign marketing.
Back home, we once again supported the Lincolnshire Digital Awards with this year’s awards serving to highlight the importance of digital technology and the sector to the local economy. A sector which is, and continues to be, one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, with businesses expanding and new starts a common occurrence.
Equally the county’s economy seems to have weathered the economic storm well, with significant infrastructure investment projects and the resilience of local businesses no doubt putting us in good stead for the year ahead.