South West survey reveals reaction to recession

17th February, 2009

More than one third of businesses in the South West say they are yet to feel the effect of the recession, according to a survey by PFA Research.

The Bodmin-based market research company polled 170 businesses in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset at the end of January, following the announcement from the UK Government that the UK is officially in recession.

It revealed that 42 per cent of businesses in Cornwall and 41 per cent in Devon say they have not yet been affected by the recession. In Somerset, 32 per cent say they are yet to feel the pinch of the credit crunch.

However, between 32 and 38 per cent of businesses have noticed customers are cutting back on their orders while a quarter (23-25 per cent) have noted a lack of new business.

Robert Rush, managing director of PFA Research, said: “We carried out the research just after the Government’s announcement came that we are officially in a UK recession.

“The results suggest a mixed response, with some businesses yet to feel the effect while others have seen a reduction in sales and new business leads.

“We were also interested to know how businesses are reacting to news of the recession – for example, exploring Internet-based marketing, investing in staff training and accessing funding.”

The survey showed that 29 per cent of businesses polled would definitely or probably increase their Internet-based marketing activities as a “low cost” alternative.

Stafford Sumner runs Cornwall-based email marketing company Jarrang. He said: “We are noticing a trend across the UK of businesses, large and small, allocating a larger percentage of their marketing budget to the online marketing mix.

“Cutting costs on traditional direct mail and investing in email marketing, which is more cost effective, measureable and responsive means that we’re feeling the benefit of change.

“I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future and as we leave the recession, I expect it to become ‘the norm’ moving forwards.”

Survey participants were also asked about activities relating to business strategy and market planning.

More than half (52 per cent) have not undertaken any activities, such as updating a business plan, revising marketing strategy or conducting market research.

However, one Somerset business believes that planning is the key to recession-proofing.

Claire Sully, managing director of Tickbox Marketing Ltd, said: “Times are challenging, but there are also a lot of opportunities out there.  I was surprised to see such a low number of businesses paying attention to forward business planning.

“At Tickbox Marketing, we started planning for this downturn more than a year ago – we revisited our business plan and made changes to our strategy.

“We are now experiencing four times the level of business due to being flexible with our business model.  Businesses should be focused on the opportunities, not just battening down the hatches and waiting for the recession to pass.”

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Press release distributed on behalf of PFA Research by mpad. For more information, pictures and interviews, please contact Rachel Picken,, 01872 321533.