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16 January 2017

New products and markets key to post Brexit growth, say Herts businesses

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Hertfordshire businesses have adapted their business strategies to put a greater focus on expanding into new products and markets to support future growth, according to new research by financial and business advisors Grant Thornton.

The survey of local businesses, conducted at Grant Thornton's 2016 Hertfordshire Limited event, revealed that 59% of the county's firms said Britain's decision to leave the EU has impacted their strategic planning. More than a third (34%) also said that concentrating on new products and markets will be key to business growth in the year ahead.

Positively, the poll results also found that nearly two thirds (62%) of companies surveyed felt business conditions are more positive or have remained the same as this time last year.

However, there are still several challenges facing the county. Improvements to transport/infrastructure (41%) and addressing the skills shortage (34%) were highlighted as the two main issues which need addressing to improve the county's economic outlook. These factors were significantly ahead of the need for more government support for businesses (7%) and improved access to funding (5%).

Commenting on the poll findings, Jeremy Read of Grant Thornton St Albans, said: "Our recent Hertfordshire Limited report showed the county's businesses have had another successful year with substantial growth in sales, profits and employment laying a strong foundation for future growth.

"Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results of our poll show that the Brexit vote has had an impact on business strategies moving forward. However, the county's firms have demonstrated they have the tenacity to overcome challenges and, as our survey suggests, they are adapting by placing greater emphasis on expansion into new areas to support growth.

"However, once again businesses have highlighted concern about the lack of talent available in the region to fulfil a growth in employment. Hertfordshire businesses should consider taking advantage of the new Apprenticeship Levy, which comes into force in April next year, as a way of helping to bridge this skills gap."

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