Colors: Purple Color

The proportion of households privately renting in the UK has ballooned over the past 20 years.  A recent report by PWC predicted that by 2025 7.2 million UK households will be occupied by private renters. In order to keep up with the increasing demand, the industry must continue to innovate.

Technology is disrupting UK industries, and in recent years traditional property companies are witnessing increasing competition from PropTech players, such as the need to provide immediate services for digitally savvy individuals. The majority of property searches begin online, however most activity continues to take place face-to-face. The rental sector is ripe for change, with firms and individuals increasingly utilising technology as a way to reduce costs and save time.

Alejandro Artacho, CEO of Spotahome, comments: “As the industry begins to embrace technology, we will see the offerings available to tenants increase. In our ‘always on, always connected’ society, the scale of digital disruption that we have seen affect the finance and even the building industry, seems to have not yet had the same effect on the rental industry.

“For instance, the traditional rental model requires in-person viewings, which is a large investment of time and money for both tenants and landlords. But aspects such as costly agent fees and lengthy wait times can be wiped out of the equation through the use of online rental platforms."

Spotahome enables potential landlords and prospective tenants to easily connect without the hassle of having to spend days organising viewings, making the rental process less time consuming.

Alejandro continues: “Technology is going to change the way the property sector operates and is already having an effect on the way traditional agencies interact with their customers. Proptech offers an element of ease that is for the most part missing from the sector. Digitising the rental process simplifies transactions and makes property management more straight-forward, making it a win-win scenario for both tenant and landlord.”

The Ooni of Ife continued his worldwide mission to attract international businesses to invest in Nigeria and take advantage of the importance country, in particular, and Africa as a whole, on a global scale.

The Ooni, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, was on a week-lond visit to California, in the USA, meeting government officials and prominent business partners, to highlight the value of the continent today and for future investments.

In meeting with major stakeholders of Silicon Valley at the Senate chamber of the Capitol in the State capitol, Sacramento, His Imperial Magesty met, for one, Silicon Valley Nigeria Economic Development SV-NED Inc and African Technology Foundation Mr Stephen Ozoigbo, as he and his entourage; which included some of  his Yoruba Kingdom’s leading light, who stood side-by-side with representatives of Stanford University, Cisco, IBM, Tesla Motors Intel and private investors.

Chief Temitope Ajayi, CEO of Silicon Valley NED, described The Ooni as an uncommon leader who pays little attention to his fame but more focused on the unification and economic progress of Yoruba race, Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

"Fame and fortune is just an illusion it's not the solution,” he said during the round-table debate. “The Ooni is our number one monarch in the Kingdom with millions of followers worldwide and a beacon for all – no matter what their circumstances; man, woman, or child – rich, poor, or indifferent. He is a true representative of all Yoruba people."

In his speech, the Co-Chair of Nigeria Council of Traditional Rulers, The Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, HRM Oba Joseph Adewole, explained the importance of State of California as the sixth biggest economy in the world with the Silicon Valley which is the 8th technology wonder of the world as reason for his visit aimed at strengthening the capacity of the youth and economic development of the African continent.

"California is the world's sixth largest economy and as such, we must reach and not miss the joint opportunities for us both.

Africa offers great potentials,” he said. “Nigeria is the nucleus of the continent while Yoruba region is the economic centre of Nigeria and as the Spiritual leader of Yorubaland, I have decided to mobilise my brother kings for an economic revolution that will meaningfully utilize our untapped resources especially human capital.

We are look to collaborate in helping our teeming population most of whom are youths capable of being great human capital assets if well productively empowered through Agriculture, Science and technology so that their generation will not be wasted."

The Ooni explained: "The vast natural resources we have at our disposal can be of immense benefit to the State of California CA as we nurture a mutual benefit relationship.”

Directed to HRM Oba Joseph Adewole, His Imperial Majesty said: “I am delighted that you can be occupying such an exalted position at this world renowned big financial institution.

I can see in you the joy of origination which is the greatest joy. When you get connected to your root from where you have been disconnected long ago, it is naturally a day of great joy."

Abraham Carons said the visit of Ooni is a major impact in his life as he always felt at one with this homeland promised to always make the Nigeria and African people proud.

"Your Majesty, I can't tell you the emotions passing through us right now,” he said. “It is a great spiritual connection with our ancestral home. We love you for your selfless service of connecting the mother continent Africa to the African Americans and other Black people around the world. You truly are an inspiration."

voestalpine Metsec plc has appointed five new apprentices as part of the company’s commitment to bridging the skills gap in the industry.

The award-winning training scheme offers the next generation a proven route to development and has seen more than 100 engineering apprentices join Metsec over the last two decades.

This year Metsec has also hired two advanced apprentices, one male and one female, bringing additional experience and knowledge to the team. This gives the apprentices the opportunity to fast track by entering at a higher level.

All Metsec apprentices have access to the latest technology in its state-of-the-art training facility, providing hands-on experience as well as a thorough understanding of each area of the business.

Stephen Giles, environmental, safety and training manager at Metsec, said: “We’re delighted to have these promising new recruits on board and look forward to watching them progress and develop throughout their careers at Metsec.

“To ensure we keep ahead and maintain our rate of growth, it is important that we nurture apprentices within the industry and provide high-quality training to ensure they are fully prepared to step into the ever-evolving industry and have a positive influence on Metsec’s future.”

The apprenticeship scheme has been successful since its inception in 1998, with employees rising through the ranks to managerial and even director level roles.

The entry-level apprentices will learn basic metal working skills in the first year, with the opportunity to continue onto an advanced apprenticeship to obtain an NVQ Level 3.

Metsec is one of the few engineering companies to run an in-house apprenticeship scheme and has previously been named Express & Star’s ‘Apprentice Employer of the Year’ and ‘Business of the Year’ at the Business is Good for the Black Country Awards. Stephen Giles was also awarded Apprentice Ambassador by Incomm Training and Business Services, in recognition of his work promoting apprenticeships.

A combination of factors – including the loss of most final salary pensions, a lack of confidence in some investment markets and diminishing returns from pension pots when taking a lump sum – have left many people aged between 30 and 50 concerned about their future retirement income.

As a result, many have turned to the buy-to-let market, which continues to offer far greater returns than the majority of other investment options.

While a 2016 study by Barclays found shares offer a 2.3 per cent return over 10 years after inflation is taken into account, government bonds provide three per cent, corporate bonds achieve 1.8 per cent and cash in a savings account actually loses 1.1 per cent of its value, investing in property has become increasingly more profitable.

In comparison, figures from Sequre Property Investment earlier this year showed a landlord who buys a property for £100,000 with a £30,000 deposit will achieve a return in excess of five per cent each year by 2023.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Incredibly high tenant demand and a lack of housing supply in many parts of the country has pushed rents up and provided buy-to-let investors with a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a significant return.

“Landlords can expect to achieve a yield of between four and five per cent, although in some cases this can be as high as eight per cent, underlining the extent to which the buy-to-let market outperforms almost all other investment types.

“In addition to substantial rental income, investors will benefit from capital growth over the medium to long term. Over the last five years, house prices in the UK have risen by almost 28 per cent, which shows just how committed investors also stand to gain through capital appreciation.

“All of this makes property the perfect option for those looking ahead to their future retirement income. Landlords will benefit from a reliable and regular income stream that can be used initially to pay off a mortgage and then to fund their post-work life, while they always have the option of selling up and taking a lump sum to enjoy in later years.

“However, as with any investment there are risks associated with buying to let, which is why working with an experienced local letting agents is the only way to be confident of picking the right property in the right place at the right time and using it to ensure a safe and comfortable retirement.”

The KICKBACK Motorcycle Show will be taking place once again at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire from 7-8 April. KICKBACK will be hosting the 2018 National Championship for Custom Motorcycles with up to 75 bike builders entering their masterpieces.
One of the categories for the National Championships — the UK’s most established of its kind is Best Young Builder, where engineers and fabricators under 30 years old can battle it out. There will also be a great collection of creative customs and modified classics in the (non-compete) Invitational Showcase plus visitors will be able to enjoy
the professional stunt show and watch burn-outs and fire-ups over the weekend.
Grab a coffee or cool beer and wander around the Shed Jumble and check out the new gear on the exhibition trade booths. The event opens at 12 noon — 5.30pm on Saturday 7th and from 10am — 4.30pm on Sunday 8th April.
Parking is free, you can park your bike right outside the main entrance and camping is available as well as an onsite hotel. Visitors can help themselves to a free poster and show guide and more information and advance tickets are available from www.TheCustomShow.com.

With the UK’s adoption of Black Friday now in its fourth year, more consumers than ever before are planning to shop, showing the shopping event is now solidified in the UK’s calendar.

New research from TopCashback.co.uk, the UK’s most generous cashback shopping site, reveals only 14 per cent of consumers in the west midlands are not planning to shop on Black Friday. Furthermore, of those shopping, only 18 per cent will be doing so for the first time.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of consumers in the west midlands are waiting for Black Friday sales to buy a big-ticket item they want or need. More than two-fifths (44 per cent) have been holding-off since September, 15 per cent since August, and 22 per cent have even been biding their time since April or earlier in the year.

Consumers are also planning on spending less this year than they did last year. In 2016 consumers were prepared to spend £539, and this year are expecting to spend £331, a £208 decrease. But, consumers are looking for a £66 saving and 96 per cent will be looking for additional savings such as cashback and voucher codes as they look to spend less.

Black Friday 2017 is also shaping up to be a truly online event as only one per cent of shopper’s plan to shop exclusively in-store. Instead, nearly a third (31 per cent) will go both in store and online and nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) will only be shopping online.

Consumers in the west midlands will be stocking up on clothes (41 per cent) this Black Friday, closely followed by toys (23 per cent), beauty (21 per cent), home goods (17 per cent) and a further 17 per cent will be looking for TV’s and laptops.

Adam Bullock, UK Director of TopCashback.co.uk, said: “Black Friday was originally presented to the UK with images of people rushing around shops fighting over TV’s and electricals. But, now three years on, Black Friday is largely an online event. In fact, last year for the first time we saw more people logging-on to buy from their mobile or tablets than desktops.

“It’s not all TVs and tech either, different types of companies are keen to drive pre-Christmas profits and therefore offer major discounts. There are some great deals to be had on mobile, TV and broadband contracts as well as travel and fashion. However, consumers are keen to get better deals and are increasingly looking to cashback sites and voucher codes to save even more money. Last year we saw £39.5 million pounds being spent through TopCashback during the Black Friday period, meaning on top of the saving offered by the retailer we helped our members save £2.6 million.”

Black Country Chamber of Commerce members and local authority leaders were recently hosted by Andy Street at Wolverhampton University to discuss local business issues with Andrew Jones MP. Considering that time was of the essence during a busy visiting schedule for Minister Andrew Jones, the discussions were lively, passionate and positive, outlining the hunger of local authority and business leaders to resolve the issues facing the Black Country. The agenda focused on the following issues: skills, transport infrastructure, Brexit uncertainty, and digital infrastructure, as well as the reliability and cost of power.

With Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget announcement being prepared for 22nd November, this was a genuine opportunity for Black Country businesses to outline their key issues. Particularly, as Andrew Jones is Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, this discussion was a fantastic way for the Black Country to voice its concerns as well as outlining its achievements ahead of such a crucial fiscal announcement.

On the issue of transport infrastructure, talks centred around Dudley, and the improved connectivity offered by the Midlands Metro extension. Present at the roundtable were intu Merry Hill and the Black Country Living Museum, two of the many businesses who would benefit from the extension of the metro link. Whilst discussing skills gaps and shortages which hamper Black Country business, it was made clear to the Minister that firms were struggling to understand, and in turn adapt to the apprenticeship levy, as well as being confused about other policy changes across the technical education landscape.

Attendees also spoke about the impact of Brexit on the Black Country. Again, it was stressed by local manufacturers that clarity was key, and the longer businesses are kept in the dark over new trade agreements and access to EU labour, the less forward-planning can be undertaken. On a positive note, around digital infrastructure, Andy Street outlined to Andrew Jones MP that the Black Country is a nationwide leader on laying digital infrastructure, having once been ranked as the lowest performing region.

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “Ahead of such an important budget announcement it is great to see government commitment to Black Country businesses. It was no surprise to hear the long-standing issues continue to be priorities for businesses, including skills and poor transport infrastructure. Our local businesses are hopeful of big announcements surrounding the Midlands Metro extension and the devolution of skills budgets and the wider skills agenda.”

Andrew Lovett, Chief Executive of the Black Country Living Museum, added: “The strength of the Black Country is its ability to adapt, and the Black Country community aren’t the sort of people who look for handouts. However, we do require investment to fulfil our potential for the good of the region and the whole of the UK. Investment is a two-way transaction and we’ll all want to deliver on the faith that is put in us through the use of tax-payer’s money.”

Greater Birmingham business leaders say the Government must not lose sight of the need to rebalance the UK economy, following the Bank of England’s decision to raise interest rates to 0.5 per cent today.

The Monetary Policy Committee voted to raise the base rate for the first time since 2007. The committee also stated any further hikes will be “at a gradual pace and to a limited extent”.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said the news shouldn’t detract from the need to strengthen the foundations of the economy.

He said: “Today the Bank of England took the historic step to raise the base rate for the first time in almost a decade.

“A number of commentators have noted how the Federal Reserve took a similar approach at the tail end of last year which saw a strengthening in US economic output and hope the trend will be reflected in the UK –this remains to be seen given the stagnant wage growth the UK has suffered over recent years.

“Nevertheless, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that at 0.25%, the rise is incremental and largely symbolic in its application as the MPC looks to curb rising inflationary pressures.

“Also today’s news shouldn’t detract from the real issue – the need to shore up the foundations of the domestic economy.

“The upcoming Autumn Budget is the perfect stage for the Government to set out its plan on how it intends to move away from a reliance on consumer spending to fuel growth and in particular, reiterate the need to invest in infrastructure and upskilling the workforce. Not only will this help rebalance the national economy but also ensure our businesses have the platform required to thrive.

“Furthermore, local firms are increasingly concerned about the competiveness of the UK market and we will be discussing this topic and others at our latest Quarterly Business Report launch which takes place on November 7th at Birmingham City University.”

The launch of the Chamber’s Quarterly Business Report takes place at Birmingham City University’s Curzon Building on 7 November.

One of the UK’s top independent Personal Lines Insurance Brokers has moved its Head Office and main customer contact centre into the City of Wolverhampton – delivering investment and jobs.

Established in 1999 by two local entrepreneurs, Mark Woods and Richard Dornan, Premium Choice specialises in providing car and commercial vehicle insurance solutions for over 100,000 customers and are rapidly growing in the market, offering home and leisure Insurance.

They have relocated from Fort Dunlop in Birmingham to Pendeford Business Park – investing over £750,000 in the refurbishment of Pendeford House.

Around 200 people are now employed at its new Wobaston Road site near to Junction 2 of the M54, with more than 15 per cent of the staff newly recruited from the City of Wolverhampton, thanks to support from the council’s enterprise team.

Richard Dornan, Premium Choice Managing Director (Underwriting and Business Development), said: “It’s an exciting time for Premium Choice. The new offices have been completely refurbished offering us the platform to grow our business and further develop our teams. The acquisition of the new building is the result of the company’s rapid growth and continual success.”

Mark Woods, Premium Choice Managing Director (Operations), added: “We are very unique in what we do and invest heavily in training our colleagues. Pendeford Business Park is perfectly located for us to capitalise on the talent that exists within the City of Wolverhampton and surrounding areas, and further develop knowledge and skills within the Financial Services Sector.

“Our business employs around 200 people and we have a proven track record of growth over the past 17 years. We continually look for great people to assist us in our journey, we always look for people who have a passion for learning and development and want to help deliver a great customer experience.

“The support that we have received, and continue to receive from City of Wolverhampton Council has been invaluable and was a real influencing factor in our decision to relocate to Wolverhampton.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “This is great news for the city and shows how the area around Junction 2 has become one of our core economic hubs.

“Regeneration in the city is being driven by £3.7 billion of investment either on site or in the pipeline - making us an attractive location for businesses like Premium Choice.

“Most importantly, its relocation is providing vital job opportunities for our residents.”

Comfort Suites Paradise Island, a member of the Choice Hotels International, Inc., family of franchises, is among the vast majority of Caribbean hotels that were not seriously impacted by recent storms and are welcoming visitors to indulge in the region's world-renowned hospitality product.
The popular all-suite hotel reports that following the passage of Hurricane Irma through The Islands of The Bahamas in September, the property received no damages as Hurricane Irma did not directly affect New Providence and Paradise Island. Therefore, after the warnings were removed, "we quickly returned to normal operational mode, completing all post-hurricane cleanup efforts and resumed all normal hotel operation activities," reported Jermaine Wright, General Manager of Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Wright further noted that bookings were encouraging as the hotel prepares for an exciting winter season.
Expressing solidarity with affected destinations in the Caribbean, including parts of The Bahamas that were impacted by the storm, Wright lauded the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association's "One Caribbean Family" initiative that allows hotels across the region to help those who have been adversely impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, while also highlighting that more than 70 percent of Caribbean destinations have not been affected and are ready to welcome visitors as usual.
He noted that The Bahamas understands the challenges and hurdles of rebounding from damaging storms, having experienced Hurricane Matthew last year.
Wright further noted that the family-owned property consistently receives high guest satisfaction ratings with visitors regularly reporting that the resort's unique brand of hospitality makes them "feel like family". The owners are intimately involved with the hotel product, supporting the dedicated team and ensuring that the product is constantly upgraded and maintained to industry standards. "This rubs off on our staff, who take an enormous amount of pride in the property and the way we treat guests," he stated.
"We have just completed refurbishment efforts totaling more than US$300,000 to update  our Crusoe's Restaurant outdoor space, pool bar and deck," he added, disclosing that total refurbishment expenditure to date exceeds $10 million for the entire property.
Comfort Suites Paradise Island continues to upgrade and expand its product, including its food and beverage experience, which features the Comfort Suites brand's signature full complimentary hot and hearty breakfast.
"We are a Comfort Suites hotel with a difference," said Wright, explaining that Crusoe's Restaurant offers an expanded lunch menu and elegant dining options. At Comfort Suites Paradise Island, all registered child guests eat lunch and dinner free when dining with a registered paying adult.
Guests of Comfort Suites Paradise Island are also able to use the swimming pools, inviting beaches, casino, Lazy River Ride and water slides at Atlantis Paradise Island, which is located adjacent to Comfort Suites. With approved signing privileges, Comfort Suites guests can also enjoy Atlantis' restaurants and lounges.

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have called on the Chancellor to use the Autumn Budget as an opportunity to boost the competitiveness of the UK economy.

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the UK economy grew by 0.4 per cent in the third quarter.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a similar rate over the three months to September as it did in the previous two quarters.

The services sector remains the largest contributor to GDP growth, increasing by 0.5 per cent, while manufacturing also grew after a weak Q2.

In the expenditure measure of GDP, there was relatively strong growth in government spending and investment.

However, there was a slowdown in growth in both household spending and business investment, to 0.1 per cent and 0.0 per cent respectively.

Raj Kandola (pictured), senior policy and patronage advisor at the Chamber, said: “Although GDP output remains subdued, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are still witnessing growth in both the service and manufacturing sector; a testament to the strong foundations which underpin the national economy.

“As employment across the country continues to reach record levels, this once again points to systemic issues with productivity output amongst our workforce and the upcoming Autumn Budget is the perfect platform for the Chancellor to set out a plan for enhancing the competitiveness of the domestic economy in light of uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations.

“Many of the trends we saw at the national level were reflected in the findings of our latest economic survey – with manufacturers in particular enjoying a fruitful three months, no doubt helped by the lower value of the pound.

“We will be discussing this topic and others that are impacting local businesses at our Q3 Quarterly Business Report Launch event which takes place on 7 November at Birmingham City University.”

If you think you know how Millennials think, you can think again, as a session at WTM London 2017, the leading global event for the travel industry, will unveil some surprising BBC research about the generation.

The Millennial age group is usually defined as those born in the early 1980s to late 1990s and their buying habits are of great interest to anyone selling travel.

BBC World News carried out the new research, Reaching Affluent Millennials and this will be detailed during the session. The study sought to find what was distinctive about this generation and its relationships with brands, media and advertising. The results were surprising.

As Ros Atkins, presenter of Outside Source on BBC World News and BBC World Service, will explain, the research discovered that much of the assumptions we might make about how Millennials think, feel and behave actually only reflects Affluent Millennials first and foremost.

The study explored how these Affluent Millennials engage with brands, and what they expect for their loyalty. In doing so, it discovered how this is affected by, in particular, their unique relationship with money and the environment.

The session takes place in the Inspire theatre on Wednesday November 8 at 12.45 – 13.45. During it, a panel of experts will also unveil insights on Affluent Millennials and their relationship with brands within the travel industry.

The discussion will include the role brands have in the lives of this market, what external factors influence their travel decisions, and what Affluent Millennials look for when it comes to travel and travel-based marketing.

WTM London, Conference and Seminar Manager, Charlotte Alderslade, said: “WTM London is the event for the release of research and discover the latest trends in the travel and tourism industry.

“This year, WTM London will unveil exclusive research from Euromonitor International, Nielsen and ForwardKeys. I am delighted to be able to include BBC World News to the list. Travel companies the world over are looking to target Millennial customers and this session will help them do that.”

The value of properties in the UK has risen by five per cent in the last year, adding more than £10,000 to the price of an average home.

New figures from HM Land Registry show a typical property sold for £225,956 in August, up from £215,143 in the same month in 2016.

Increases over the last 12 months have been largest in the north-west, where house prices have risen by 6.5 per cent. This was followed by gains of 6.4 per cent recorded in the East Midlands, east of England and the south-west.

Kevin Shaw, national sales director at property specialist Leaders, says: “The strength and prosperous nature of the country’s property market has once again been shown in these new statistics.

“The fact every single region across the UK experienced an increase of at least 2.6 per cent in house prices over the last year shows the market’s resilience despite the uncertainty of Brexit and gives sellers and buyers great confidence to make their next move.

“A significant rise in house prices is good news not only for homeowners who now have more options open to them when it comes to either moving or releasing equity in their property, but also for landlords whose rental return is topped up by substantial capital growth that is realised when selling.

“However, rising house prices are not good news for everybody and can make getting on the ladder less affordable for some. Next month’s Budget is the ideal opportunity for the government to show it is on the side of prospective first-time buyers by reducing or even abolishing stamp duty for this group.”

The statistics show that while the average property is worth £225,956, first-time buyers actually pay an average of £190,792 while those who have previously owned a property typically spend £262,156.

Kevin adds: “Looking ahead to the next 12 months, the outlook for the property market remains extremely positive. With the exception of the prime central London sector, further rises in house prices are expected across the country.

“Demand for all types of homes remains high and supply in many areas is not great enough, so we anticipate a busy and booming market for some time to come.”

Following a reported 10% rise in mead sales in the past year, Lyme Bay Winery is predicting a craft beer-like movement hitting the UK over the coming months, as everyone from historical reenactors to cocktail connoisseurs embrace the revival of this honey-based tipple, which was one of the first alcoholic drinks to be created. Dubbed the fasted growing alcohol sector in the US, mead is steadily becoming the drink of choice for many in the UK and continues to be the Devon-based producer's bestselling range.

Rich, sweet, sophisticated and packed with polyfloral characteristics, Lyme Bay Winery's meads are made using a unique blend of Mexican, Chinese and English honey foraged from the most aromatic of indigenous flowers. Combining traditional and modern techniques, the honey blends, which are filtered naturally, are diluted with water and fermented in stainless steel vats.

Unlike many mead producers, Lyme Bay Winery sticks with the age-old method of deriving the fermentable sugars from the honey without grapes, while also using the most up-to-date winemaking techniques including the use of selected wine yeasts and cross flow filtration to create its unique and distinctive range of award-winning meads. Best served at room temperature, mead is the perfect accompaniment to cheese, spicy food and even ice cream.

Firms in the West Midlands experienced the slowest increase in business activity in over a year during September, although growth still remained above the UK average, according to the latest Lloyds Bank Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey.

The West Midlands business activity PMI registered at 55.2 in September, down from 58.6 in August. A reading above 50.0 shows an expansion in output, while a reading below 50.0 indicates contraction.

Despite losing momentum, the pace of the region’s output growth was above the UK average (54.1).

Businesses also experienced a steep rise in new orders, as new customers boosted order intakes. Firms took on more staff at a faster rate than what was seen at national level, to satisfy the growing demand.

Business confidence remained high, with firms introducing new products and expecting increased sales over the next 12 months. However, the level of optimism was slightly lower than in August.

Meanwhile, unfavorable exchange rates contributed to higher input costs for firms. The increased cost burdens were partly passed on to clients through higher prices charged for goods and services

The Lloyds Bank PMI is the leading economic health-check of UK regions. It’s based on responses from manufacturers and services businesses about the amount of goods and services produced during September compared with the previous month.

Mark Cadwallader, regional director for SME banking in the West Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“West Midlands companies finished the third quarter with a solid expansion in business activity, however it was marked by its slowest growth in 13 months. Nevertheless, robust growth in activity and new orders helped to boost job creation, which were higher than the national level.”

“As we enter the final quarter of 2017, we start the countdown to the Christmas holidays. Businesses in the consumer goods and hospitality sectors will need to ensure they manage their working capital carefully, in order to take advantage of increased demand from events like Black Friday, Christmas and New Year.

“Last month our Working Capital Index report found that businesses in the West Midlands have £42bn tied up in excess working capital, which includes assets like stock and invoices. Cash that’s tied up in working capital can be released and invested in creating more stock or building capacity to meet higher demand over the festive season.”