Declan Flynn: Still reasons to be cheerful about our economic prospects in 2023
AS Christmas approaches with all the financial pressures this brings, it is not hard to see why people in Northern Ireland are feeling less confident about their finances, given the inflation and cost of living headlines that we are met with on a daily basis when we turn on the television.
Danske Bank’s consumer confidence index for June to September reiterated this as their index was down from 137 over the same period in 2021 to 92 this year.
The rising costs of essentials like heat and food also left many in Northern Ireland feeling less confident about their job security.
Added to this the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in which he will freeze income tax thresholds and reduce capital gains tax allowances, will see further pressure brought to bear on many of the tax paying public.
Despite this doom and gloom, we have seen numerous businesses in Northern Ireland create jobs; IT services firm Nimbus has announced the creation of 20 new jobs.
Wrightbus, which was bought out of administration in 2019, has seen employment numbers reach 1,000 and they expect this to rise to over 1400 in the next 12 months.
Belfast 'green-tech' firm Catagen, which specialises in testing catalytic converters, has also announced that it is to recruit 100 new positions.
Reported profits at some of our largest local companies are healthy, with the likes of IT firm Kainos reporting profits for the first half of this year up by 16 per cent to £34 million.
The outlook from its chief executive, Brendan Mooney, was that "despite the economic uncertainty... demand for our services has never been higher."
As for retailers, Lidl more than doubled its profits in Northern Ireland last year, securing its status as the region’s fastest growing retailer. The German supermarket chain revealed its profit after tax rose 114 per cent to £11.8 million for the year ending February 2022.
Investment by local companies in their businesses has also been impressive with the likes of Northern Ireland aerospace company Thompson Aero Seating investing £7.5m in a new testing facility at its site in Banbridge.
The company makes premium class flatbed seating for global aircraft manufacturers and is creating a new 13,500 sq ft facility which will allow the firm to carry out certification of its new products locally and boost its research and development abilities.
In the commercial property world, we have seen strong bidding on the George Best Hotel, with a total of 10 bids received for the property.
Demand by occupiers for industrial/distribution warehouses has also never been as strong with very little availability in this sector throughout Northern Ireland.
Rents for new or recently refurbished warehouses with heights above six metres are nearly 50 per cent more than they were only two years ago, with the demand for space being driven by the move from the high street to online deliveries.
Whilst the cost of Christmas is on most people’s minds and the news is full of fears about the future of our economy, there are good news stories out there, they just sometimes get drowned out in a sea of doom and gloom.
So, this Christmas when you look beyond the main headlines there might still be reasons to be cheerful and there is still the potential for a prosperous new year.
Declan Flynn is managing director at Belfast commercial property agents Lisney.