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Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Recession: Bucking up or buckling under in Cambs?
Recession: money
The UK has emerged from the longest recession since records began in 1955

Official figures reveal that the UK is out of recession, after the economy grew by 0.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2009.

However, insolvency expert, Mary Currie-Smith, who works for business analysts Begbies Traynor, warns that it could get worse in 2010.

She said: "Debts are going to start to catch up with companies this year."

Businesses in Cambridgeshire which have continued to thrive claim the key is the right product and good management.

A Cambridge-based company has issued a Red Flag Alert report claiming that thousands of businesses in the county will struggle to survive this year even though, according to the Office for National Statistics, Britain is now out of the recession.

Currie-Smith is director of insolvency at Begbies Traynor's, a business recovery firm based in the city. The company monitors financial reports and insolvency cases referred to the courts.

In the final quarter of 2009 there were almost 2000 Cambridgeshire companies with serious financial problems.

"Businesses were lucky last year," she said. "The VAT rate dropped which made them more profitable, and the tax man allowed companies longer to pay off their VAT and tax arrears.

"But, unfortunately, all of those short-term arrangements are coming to an end."

Currie-Smith was involved in monitoring businesses in a similar manner during the recession of the early 90s and believes the same pattern will be repeated. That is, that businesses will continue to fail up to two years after the recession has officially ended, as they struggle to cope with debts incurred during the downturn.

"We expect those failures to peak during the third quarter of 2010," she said.

"Take advice and go to your bank manager. It's in their interest to talk to you. Talk to your accountant, talk to your lawyer and get the advice you need early."

Ale-ing economy?

Cambridge-based microbrewers, Milton Brewery, is one of the small companies that contacted BBC Cambridgeshire with a success story.

The company has opened its second pub in the space of 15 months.

The Devonshire Arms
The Devonshire Arms on day two of the six-week refurbishment work

With so many establishments closing through a combination of cheaper alcohol in supermarkets and less disposable income, the tiny brewery is bucking the trend and claims its success lies in a combination of good beer and effective management.

The company carried out a complete refurbishment of The Devonshire Arms, off the city's Mill Road, in just six weeks. Originally a Temperance coffee house, the pub had become a venue specialising in Afro-Caribbean music before the owners pulled out.

Richard Naisby, founder of Milton Brewery said: "It was known for its music but it wasn't known for its beer - and that's one thing that's going to change.

"It's going to be a new place - a Victorian pub that was converted into a music venue - and we're taking it back to a Victorian pub.

"This is now our fifth pub," he continued, "but our first one in Cambridge and we're very successful. There is a market for real ale, even in the recession."

The brewery sells its beers to pubs, other breweries and events all over the country, and has been buying up pubs and pub freeholds since 2002.

It now has two in London and another in Peterborough. In October 2008 it opened the White Lion in Norwich - a pub that had been closed for four years.

Meanwhile, the brewery has seen its sales rise by 33 per cent since 2008, and its turnover has grown considerably helped largely by an increase in duty on beer.

The refurbished Devonshire Arms
A very different look to the Devonshire Arms following refurbishment

Top gear

Martin runs a small driving school in the county. He says the recession hasn't really had any effect on his business.

"Youngsters leaving college now realise that jobs are scarce and the one thing that a lot of people want to know is, 'do you possess a full driving licence?' and I think that's what's keeping us going.

"People are realising that you do need that skill to get a decent job."

He estimates that it costs between £700 and £1000 to learn to drive and pass your test, but maintains that "it's money well-spent".

Although Martin admits that it seems like a lot to pay out, he says that business has been constant throughout the recession and he hasn't noticed any drop-off at all.

Clawing back

Now, you may have cut back on life's little luxuries, but that doesn't mean that man's best friend has to suffer.

A Wisbech company specialising in dog grooming has been named Enterprise Fenland Network Entrepreneur of the Year.

Founded in 2008, Sam Knights and Jay Kerr will bring AA Mobile Dog Wash to you, and the services they offer - everything from claw clipping to ear and eye care - have proved so popular that they plan to purchase a second vehicle in 2010.

Dog being washed
The recession hasn't dulled our appetites for beauty treatments!

"Our current van is like a salon on wheels," said Sam. "There's a bath and we carry all of the warm water on board, plus a hairdryer. We can do everything - clipping, bathing and drying - in the van."

And, as both Sam and Jay used to be veterinary nurses, they're also qualified to check on the animals' health.

Sucking up

Industrial vacuum cleaners might not sound like the most exciting products in the world, but with names like The Boris, The Toby and The Big Brute, Michael Williams is at least trying to inject a little humour into the world of engineering.

His company manufactures these machines and exports them worldwide. They are primarily used in the agriculture industry to clear and clean grain stores.

Michael started his company after being made redundant during a similar recession in 1974 and began by designing the vacuums in his kitchen.

When faced with this latest recession, Michael said: "It was very frightening at first when the whole world seemed to implode. But, we battened down the hatches, we cut down overtime, we cut down every bit of waste, examined our stock and upped our advertising.

"This is the third time we've been through this and we've got a strategy," he explained. "You batten down early and increase on your promotions.

"Battening down the hatches is a Naval term," he continued. "It means that when you know a storm is coming you take every possible action to stop yourself being swamped and carried away."

Map showing locations of companies bucking the trend during the recession
Cambridgeshire companies are bucking the recession trend

Looking good

Ian Clemson is in the business of promoting local companies to local people. Working for The Best of Cambridge and The Best of Newmarket, he has seen great disparities between the two towns, and the effects of the recession on both.

Cambridge, he says, is weathering the storm well, due in part to the University and the thriving technology industries.

He describes Newmarket, on the other hand, as a town of "haves and have-nots".

"Hairdressing and beauty businesses are doing well," he said. "Even if you can't afford to go away anywhere, you still want to look and feel good. People are prepared to spend what money they have on those things."

Recession-proof?

Centre for Cities - an independent economic research organisation - published its report on the effects of the recession in January 2010.

It named Cambridge as one of the top five cities most likely to weather the recession. Reasons cited included a strong private sector, high levels of entrepreneurship, a highly-educated workforce and a large share of knowledge-intensive jobs.

If you want to share a story about how the recession has affected your business - whether in a positive or negative manner - email BBC Cambridgeshire:




SEE ALSO
UK economy emerges from recession
27 Jan 10 |  Business
East region 'out of recession'
26 Jan 10 |  England
Council planning to cut 300 jobs
21 Jan 10 |  Cambridgeshire
Economy tracker: Inflation
13 Jul 10 |  Business
Council makes cuts to save 1.6m
19 Jan 10 |  Cambridgeshire
Economic recovery 'begins slowly'
07 Sep 09 |  Cambridgeshire

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