When the latest Palmer Market Research report came out a few weeks back, many, including myself, scoffed at it’s surprisingly negative tone. After a few years of fairly strong recovery, it suddenly said that the growth we’ve all been enjoying will start to dry up over the coming five years. Eyebrows were raised. Yet as the weeks have gone past, I get the sense that the tone of the report is now being accepted by most as business starts to drop off.

Private concern

The only way you’ll get any chance of an honest answer about the state of someone’s business is if you ask them privately. No one is really going to be that honest and talk truthfully about the current health of business. Public honesty isn’t what the double glazing industry does. You do have to look very hard at social media to find any honest commentary about the state of business.

For the record, I don’t mind saying that although at our place we have been happy with business this year, it hasn’t been as busy as we thought it might be, and we’ll miss our very challenging target we set ourselves at the start of 2015. Not by a lot, but other areas such as average order values have increased.

Ask the right people at other companies though and you might get an honest answer to the question: “hows business?” I have over the past few weeks, and things are not as rosey as they might have been 12 months ago. There was perhaps an air of arrogance from the industry last year. 2014 was a great year for many. It was the year that we all may have thought that the good times were back. 2015 came and started with more of a cough and splutter than a bang. It’s continued in that manner ever since.

In the end, 2015 will be looked at as an average year. Not as booming as first hoped, but not weak in the slightest.

Economic weaknesses

There are however some issues that show that the economy isn’t yet firing on all cylinders. For a start, the latest economic data shows a slight slowing of GDP growth on a quarter by quarter basis. Each time there is one or two tenths of a percent chipped away. They may only be small amounts, but add them up over the course of a year and they start to add up and become something more meaningful.

Then there is the steel crisis. UK manufacturing, despite what the media and figures will say, still has some very acute problems in certain areas. Steel has lost thousands of jobs in the past few weeks thanks to the closure of certain plants.

Global growth is also slowing. China is slowing. The developing nations are slowing too. We might feel insulated in the UK from those problems, but in a globalised economy, these shocks to economies thousands of miles away do now have an impact on these shores too.

Then there is the growing Middle East crisis and the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris which only add to European jitters. All of these combine to create a less than certain economic outlook.

Truth vs reality

Of course there will be some very good companies who have managed to make 2015 a good one, beating figures recorded for 2014. They should be applauded for their hard work and success. But in a recent poll I ran here on DGB, it is also very clear that there are plenty out there that have found this year difficult.

The reality is that no company is going to be honest in public about how business has been this year. It’s vanity that will always remain in our sector. I won’t be surprised if companies were tweeting about how busy they were as they were going under! The truth however is always a different matter.

Some companies will be doing fine, some won’t. All will tell you they’re doing great. But the signs are there. Take a look at the share prices of some of our industry’s most valuable and traded companies on the markets. Despite a good year generally, most, it not all have slipped back in their share prices. That’s not a coincidence. That is a sign that the booming energy we’d all like to see just isn’t there.

It’s not time to panic. There’s no recession on the way. Inflation is low, wages are slowly rising and the cost of living has never been this low for years. But a dose of reality is always welcome too.

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