In recent years, I have taken the chance over the Christmas break to sit and consider the factors most likely to impact our clients over the year ahead. I do not profess to be a commentator nor economic forecaster, although even they missed most of the big events of 2016; but I do think it is important that those of us for whom advising others is a livelihood do stop and consider the risks, opportunities and threats ahead so we can guide our clients as best we can. So briefly, here are the major factors I will be watching in 2017.
It may be easier to consider what’s not going to happen in 2017. Brexit, Trump, Russian posturing, German and French elections will all have a massive effect on the world economic and financial situation, not just in 2017 but for years or even decades to come. Much is written and predicted on these matters, but one thing 2016 should have taught us is nothing is certain and uncertainty seems to be a continuing theme as we look ahead.
What Brexit may do to exchange rates, an inward-looking US policy may counteract, rebalancing GBP to USD rates. Likewise, major swings in German and French voting towards more Euro sceptic parties may change the negotiating position of the EU to a harder stance if they want to shut the door on further exits or a softer position if the UK suddenly finds sympathetic sceptics controlling the major economies of the EU project.
One thing is for sure, anyone trading in foreign currency may do well to consider forward buying positions ahead of major elections or events to try and secure some stability in their exchange rates and pricing models. Importers should also consider seeking alternative long term plans for sourcing goods, looking to the countries of the world where the UK is likely to be able to deliver fast and favourable trade agreements/tariffs in case of a protracted negotiation with the EU – especially given the sound bites following Theresa Mays statement on 17th January.
Could 2017 be the year that we see genuine movement on the thorny issue of the A27? Having worked here for uh-hum years, the inner sceptic in me says we may simply face another delay, either as a result of Government spending priorities or because any preferred option incurs a legal challenge from the disgruntled north/south* (*delete as appropriate).
My fear is Chichester gets itself into the same situation as Hindhead or Stonehenge did whereby another decade is lost to bitter wrangling. Is an option better than the status quo?
Whilst we await the outcome of consultations on the A27, it is of some comfort that we have a punctual, frequent and well manned rail service, linking us to the rest of the…. Oh hold on!
Our City seems to continue to ‘hold its’ own on the national stage, not succumbing to the same issues faced by many other shopping centres. We are told that footfall is somewhere between static and slightly down, but certainly not down in the same percentage points as the national average. 2017 sees the launch of BID2 (second term of the Business Improvement District) and the Chichester Vision, both of which have ambitious plans to continue reinventing and promoting Chichester as a location for business, shopping, leisure and retail. With many clients operating in and around the City Centre, we will watch with interest to see how quickly and effectively these deliver.
Chichester is set for further development, both commercial and residential. Development is always a controversial subject but I do take some comfort from the fact that we live and operate in an area where people want to live, work and relax. Regardless of demographic mix, more people equals more trade, more employees, more customers and more fresh ideas pouring into our region which, if carefully managed and supported by infrastructure, can only be beneficial.