Opinions among entrepreneurs are split.
Some, like Chris Clarkson, director of sunshine.co.uk, haven’t felt the effects of recession yet, anyway. He says: "With continual growth of online spending, if this is a recession, we can’t wait to see the growth once it is over. I firmly believe that the impact of the recession depends on the course of action business owners took to try and stave it off and also what sector you are in. Those who have marketed their way out of the recession are the ones who are now probably seeing the benefit of an upturn in public spending, whereas those who put their head in the sand and hoped it would pass will be the ones who are now saying that they are yet to see the end of the financial difficulties."
Likewise Mark Pearson, MD of MyVoucherCodes, says: "For us the recession brought new customers and opened up our brand to a new social demographic that would have historically turned their back on using vouchers and discounts but are now looking to save money."
No wonder Pearson’s so cheerful: MyVoucherCodes.co.uk was the fourth fastest growing site of 2008 and currently attracts eight million visitors every month. His affiliate marketing business, www.markcomedia.co.uk, turned over £280m last year, proving that online businesses are among the most resistant to recession.
"All the spending statistics that we see in our day-to-day trading show that internet shopping has remained a high consumer priority," Pearson says. "The recession just caused a shift in trends from people only looking for discounts when buying luxury items and electronic equipment, to instead trying to find bargains for their every day shopping such as groceries and school clothes."
Neil McHugh, co-managing director of Rightmobilephone.co.uk, has a more conservative response. "I think in some sectors, the downturn has stabilised. But stopping the downward spiral doesn’t mean the recession has come to an end," he says. "There is still a lot of caution out there as to what will be around the corner.
"I think it is very early to consider the true consequences of the government’s short term initiatives, cuts and corporate hand outs. For the well-placed, there is opportunity during times like these. As a company, we have been fortunate enough to be able to re-invest into our technology and brand. It’s an ideal time to do so as suppliers cut their margins. I imagine for many, the next 12 months will be about consolidation, streamlining and positioning themselves to compete as signs of a recovery do finally appear."
Orders at Zak Edwards’s online gift firm Prezzybox.co.uk are up 26 per cent on last year. His website has received record traffic spikes, almost rivalling last year’s Christmas figures. He can see both sides, however, of the recession/no recession debate. Edwards says: "I’m unsure, to be honest. From a business perspective, Prezzybox is doing pretty well, so we could argue that the recession is drawing to a close. However, you only need to speak to builders, landlords or restaurateurs to find out that this isn’t actually the reality of the situation and a lot of people are struggling for work and to make ends meet.
"I’m sure that we’ll come out of the economic decline but I’m unsure that it will happen as quickly as we would like, and I’m convinced that the recession is not at an end. The important thing as a business owner is to remain positive and focus on maximising your core competencies to increase profits in everything that you do. If you are lucky enough to come out the other side, you’ll be stronger for it.”
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