President's Message June 2016

Posted: 29th June 2016, 3:52pm

I am writing this introductory address in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result which was announced early on the morning of 24 June confirming a marginal decision to leave the European Union.  You won’t be surprised that many of our members, local media outlets and business community groups have been asking me for an immediate reaction from the Chamber of Commerce on how this decision will impact on our local businesses.  

After a short period of reflection, my answer has been the same to any one who has asked. Firstly, it has always been the primary role of St Albans District Chamber of Commerce to promote the collective interests of our members. Secondly, we appreciate that our membership comprises businesses on either side of this EU debate and consequently a view one way or the other expressed by me on behalf of the Chamber of commerce would be wholly inappropriate. Finally and most importantly in my view, now that we  know the outcome of the referendum, it is imperative that we continue to work closely with our members as we have done so since 1907 to support them in achieving their goals, whatever the prevailing business conditions. 

One of our local media outlets were keen to obtain a little more detail around the financial implications for our local businesses and Mel Hilbrown of the St Albans Enterprise Agency provided what I believe is an excellent summary of the issues which require consideration.  Mel’s comments are set out below in full as I believe they cover some highly relevant areas which businesses ought to be considering at this time. 

Some thoughts for small businesses from St Albans Enterprise Agency’s Mel Hilbrown, Chamber director 
"For most businesses trading entirely in the UK, the impacts of the EU decision will be limited in the short-term. The main advice to any business is: don’t panic; yes, we are in a period of volatility now and no one can be sure how we will be effected. So this is the time not to be taking drastic decisions but to explore and research options. 

However, the effect of the referendum result on the exchange rate has been significant. But remember: this may be a long term effect but it may just reflect uncertainty and correct itself as things settle down. For exporters, there is a short term, and potentially longer term, opportunity here as your products or services will be cheaper. 

Conversely, if you import, you will see costs go up – but this will also affect most of your competitors too. Some other costs related to exchange rate will be affected, for instance fuel costs, so expect increases here. You need to plan how you will deal with these effects short-term and longer term. Can you afford to absorb these costs short-term or do you need to adjust prices now? And how will you react if this later reverses? Lots of planning to do, and perhaps some decisions that may need to be taken sooner rather than later, but do this after proper assessment and in a planned way, understanding potential implications." 

Clearly if you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please do get in contact with the Chamber of Commerce and we will seek to put you in contact with the most appropriate person to answer your question. There is also a fantastic opportunity to share your views and have your questions answered right throughout our Business Festival which kicks off on Monday 4th July and finishes with our business lunch featuring Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business on Friday 8th July. We look forward to seeing you there!

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