Ssh don't tell anyone.....
The middle of January is when we finish looking at December's management accounts and generally bring the curtain down on the first nine months of the financial year for those clients whose year end is the 31st March. December was an extraordinary month, I can't actually remember a month like it ever, not even in the recession years of the eighties and early nineties. I can remember saying to a client just before Christmas that we seen to have taken our North European cousins working practices to heart and stopped work early - this opinion goes back to the nineties when we used to act for a transport and shipping company that found it couldn't move goods through Europe from the middle of December to the middle of January due to various public holidays and Saints days.
Anyway back to why it was extraordinary, turnover fell through the floor right across the board in terms of mix of business, you name it: manufacturing, retail, service, luxury goods - in some cases the sales figures were a third of what they had been in November, not a third down but a third! Advance orders were down and every week since we returned from the Christmas break I have spoken to at least two clients who are laying people off, this week we made one member of staff redundant. Well talking to those same clients, and others, and it seems things are getting better, slowly but surely, of course no matter how well January is it might not save some businesses but it is a start.
I get the impression from talking to a lot of people that the general feeling in business is one of annoyance, annoyance with the media for talking up a recession and lampooning anybody who dares to put their head above the parapet and say there are some 'green shoots' out there, annoyance with the banks for trying to be insurance salesmen and not being banks and annoyance with the Government for its general mishandling of the economy.
We can't help it, we are a northern European nation and happiness isn't something we do readily - mustn't grumble is the national motto, we put our heads down and hope that 'things can only get better'. People are genuinely frightened but not as much as they were in the nineties, I was reading an article yesterday that said anybody born after 1980 doesn't know how to handle this situation and is panicking. One of the great quotes of the past fortnight (and I have verified this by talking to a client who runs a holiday park) was from the Caravan Club of Great Britain (I think that's there title) who announced "that advanced bookings for 2009 were at record levels" (obviously they would be for 2009 but you know what they meant!) - see, we might have lost Woolworths, Adams, Zavvi etc but we can still party like its 2009.