Insolvency Practitioners are interested in many things. Many of them, for instance, are ornithologists or petrol-heads; some are vinophiles (or at least their noses suggest they are), geocachers or are into 'extreme ironing' (which, we are told, is a 'thing'). However, you cannot take insolvency out of the practitioner and a couple of issues that always pique their interest are 'business' and 'consumers'.
Today's news (Thursday 1 December) include both. The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer found that confidence among businesses fell by 5 points to 10 per cent in November, the weakest since February 2021, and economic optimism also declined, with the net balance in negative figures for the first time since January 2021. Only 37 per cent of businesses cornered by a person with an iPad said they were optimistic about the economy (for the sake of brevity, we are going to call them 'deluded'); this was down from 41 per cent at the end of October. 40 per cent of those surveyed were pessimistic and not just because they are British.
Even more interesting to those in our glorious profession, the number of companies expecting stronger trading prospects also fell, from 46 per cent in October to 43 per cent in November, while an unchanged 19 per cent anticipate weaker prospects. Only 38 per cent expected to be hiring new staff, with 24 per cent anticipating redundancies (which is bad news for those team members who overheard the phone survey and paid particular attention to that part of the conversation). It is too early to say (and to measure) whether Jeremy and Rishi's Autumn Statement had a positive effect on businesses or individuals.
Segueing to individuals, despite surprise falls in the headline inflation rate in the EU and annoucements from the States that the Fed is slowing its anticipated rate of interest rate rises, here in the UK food inflation rose rapidly to 12.4 per cent, with higher costs causing households to pay more for staple foods, such as milk and eggs. Overall, shop price inflation rose to 7.4 per cent, from 6.6 per cent in October, the highest level since the British Retail Consortium began its monthly survey in 2005. Coffee and meat are also topping the charts at the luxury end of shopping lists and there is no assistance from 'non-food', the inflation of which rose to 4.8 per cent in November from 4.1 per cent in October.
Despite the hilarious constant repetion of ads by the likes of M&S, Asda, Morrisons, John Lewis and that corker from Aldi almost half of shoppers plan to rein in Christmas spending this year, according to research by Kantar. While the proportion of those concerned about Christmas spending has risen to 47 per cent.