BESA carries out state of trade survey

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The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) urges members to respond to the state of trade survey so they can gather information on how well the sector is faring against the current turbulent economic situation

Despite the resilience of the stock market and some positive signs of easing on the material supply disruption problem, building services contractors are still grappling with high prices, cash flow problems, and skills shortages. BESA’s state of trade survey seeks to understand the true picture.

It was only recently that British Steel had to raise its prices by £50 a tonne due to “the sustained high level of steelmaking costs in recent weeks” adding to the pressure on supply chains. As material costs have already been incorporated and priced into projects, contractors are struggling to pass on the extra costs to clients. For example, steel costs 70% more now than it did in November 2020.

BESA is aware that cash flow is facing usual ongoing problems. It is being caused by delayed or late payment and retention of contractors’ money. Ultimately, BESA still needs to get a clearer picture of whether that situation is worsening because of the prevailing economic conditions.

Economy

Steep prices have resulted in project delays and in more extreme circumstances have caused businesses to collapse. Therefore, it is more important than ever for organisations like BESA, and its fellow survey partners the ECA, Select and SNIPEF, to be able to gauge both the current trading situation and the general business health of contractors across the industry in the state of trade survey.

In its final state of trade survey of last year, BESA and its partners discovered members were most worried about staff shortages. Of the 52% of respondents who said they had vacancies in their business, over a quarter said there were ‘not enough applicants’ and 31% said that the applicants were not qualified or skilled enough for the job.

Update

Now that another state of trade survey has just been issued, members are once again being asked to provide an update on these concerns. For example, BESA wants an update on the skills situation so trade bodies can put even more effort into tackling this issue. Members will also be asked to compare their current turnover with previous quarters – and most importantly with the period before the pandemic.

As well as discussing areas of concern, BESA wants to know their thoughts on market conditions, whether they are tendering more or less work, and if the supply of products and materials is better or worse.

New challenges

The state of trade survey also seeks to establish how well contractors are adapting to changing technical challenges. Developments include the growing demand for decarbonisation of buildings, the case for improving indoor air quality, and the increased use of digital systems. Cyber security is another challenge for contractors.

‘Business surveys like this are hugely important because they give us a snapshot of what is happening’

“Business surveys like this are hugely important because they give us a snapshot of what is happening at the sharp end of the market and how businesses are managing,” said BESA’s director of legal and commercial Debbie Petford.

“Trade associations can help in a number of ways from providing business and legal advice to lobbying government to address pressing problems on behalf of members. So, the more people that respond to our survey the better to give us the clearest picture of what is going on and what are the biggest barriers to growth and prosperity,” she added.

“Cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses,” said Petford. “It can also be a huge source of stress to business owners and their staff, so our survey is another way of checking on the wider health of our industry – including the impact of business hardship on mental health and staff morale.”

To respond to the BESA ‘state of trade’ survey please go to survey monkey.

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