Economy: Rough times ahead
Stock Exchanges around the world may be hitting new heights on an almost daily basis but empirical evidence from the high street suggests to me that all is not quite as rosy as those records would imply.
Sometimes, it seems as if a major household name is going out of business or making arrangements with creditors each and every day.
Yesterday, it was Debenhams who hit the headlines, following House of Fraser, Maplin's and a stream of other high profile casualties over the last few months.
Older readers may wish to remind us that this kind of thing has been going on for generations, citing the likes of Woolworths and C&A. While that is correct, this current spate of doom and gloom seem set to become a long-term phenomenon.
Indeed, I begin to worry far more when a company like Wonga can't manage to continue, despite charging interest rates that were truly obscene. At some point, it would be good to get an inside track as to the factors that went wrong at what sounded like a business with a licence to print money. Mind you, Lloyd's of London has had its own problems over the years starting from a similarly solid, if rather more reputable, base.
I am no economist and therefore struggle to square the health of the markets with the sickness of the high street. Perhaps this is because retail no longer matters to any significant degree. That could well be the case, since these days, it does seem that service industries including accountancy are where the big money can be made most easily.
Even so, with the property market especially in London beginning to tail off and that old chestnut uncertainty rearing its ugly head, it does seem time for us all to worry. Business confidence is clearly at low ebb if no other reason than concern that our government seems far more interested in internecine strife than running the country and its finances, pinning all of its strategic thinking on a post-Europe dividend that currently appears to be based on little more than hope or prayer.
With so many major businesses going down the pan or struggling to make ends meet, there must soon be a knock-on effect which is likely to impact upon us all. While most readers will probably not have worked to any significant degree for even one of the names identified above or, indeed, other major businesses that are in the process of failing, there will inevitably be suppliers, servicers and the like who could struggle with whom we do have vital relationships.
I would love to be able to express total optimism about what is going to happen to the economy and therefore to the profession over the next decade or even just one year but at the moment the economic indicators that I see and try to understand are a source of serious worry, while yet another U-turn by the Chancellor, in this case with regard to NIC for the self-employed suggests that he has little more faith in his own business than I do.
As so often, I would love to be proved wrong and discover that the accountancy market thrives on the back of a stable and flourishing UK and global economy throughout the 2020s but somehow, I doubt it.