Arlen Pettitt, knowledge development manager, on the Britains favourite colour
Grey is the new black and whiteYou might not be surprised to learn that, in these uncertain times, Britain’s new favourite colour is grey. One in five new cars bought last year were grey, aptly beating the more reassuringly well-defined black and white to the top of the chart. We’re a nation who live for the grey now (unless you are a NUFC fan) So much so that Mel Stride MP, the minister photographed outside Downing Street with a list of queries about No Deal Brexit poking out of his folder, could suitably have followed (1) No Food and (2) No Channel Tunnel with (3) No More Black and White. On Brexit, there remains no clear way forward, which is why the Chamber have called for Article 50 to be extended avoid leaving the EU without a deal, allowing Westminster time to work through the grey to find an approach with broad support. Businesses have become accustomed to this new normal – with certainty as elusive as a Greggs vegan sausage roll – but with only two months to go, it has put the brakes on future planning. The region’s businesses have told us they’ve slowed investment in training compared to a year ago – a point backed up by figures on apprenticeship starts – and that staff costs are their main concern. But, both domestic and export sales remain strong, giving the sense of a business community focused on serving customers and clients while holding fire on longer term plans. The brakes seem to be on for consumers too – the availability of consumer credit has fallen, and retail sales have stalled too – perhaps a combination of low confidence, low real wage growth and high uncertainty for the future. This is yet more bad news for the already fragile retail sector, and has ramifications for the wider economy, as household spending makes up 60% of GDP growth. Retail an example of how the focus on Brexit means the grey extends into other areas. In other times, the future of the high street would be the number one priority of a government, or the future of apprenticeships, or the future of housing. Instead, we’ve had three largely stagnant years when it comes to substantive domestic policy. With the absence of black and white from Westminster, and no sign of certainty on the horizon, the business community will need to continue as it has for three years, adapting with little political support.