2020 Business Predictions: Eliot Saxton, Managing Director, Essential Projects

It’s that time of year, when Business Link Magazine invites the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead. It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this now for over 30 years.

While none of us possess a crystal ball, it is uncanny how accurate some of these forecasts have been over the years.

Today, we speak to Eliot Saxton, Managing Director from metal fabrication and project management company Essential Projects, who offers his opinion on how the price of steel will impact construction costs and the how retailers, one of his key sectors, will adapt to meet the challenges of online shopping.

In January, the retail giant Next released its latest trading statement. From this, by reading other retail market intelligence reports and my own experience of the retail sector, I am predicting that retailers will continue to make changes to their in-store experiences to attract shoppers to do more than browse and collect orders placed online.

Whilst the online shopping trend will continue, it is clear that consumers still like to shop, browse and meet friends.

Subsequently, many retailers, have responded to this changing trend by revising store layouts to incorporate cafés and other concessionary areas to change shopping from a transactional experience to a more social interaction. Next for example, continues to evolve its partnership with Costa Coffee, and Sainsburys has began to install buy and collect points for Argos since it became a subsidiary.

This has seen Essential Projects win work to install steel and glass staircases, balustrade and mezzanine flooring to create space to enhance the shopping experience for a number of high profile retailers. Key to our ability to provide these service competitively are the availability of skilled people who can work efficiently and have the interpersonal skills to liaise on site to ensure the project is managed smoothly, and the fluctuation on the cost of materials such as steel.

I don’t think anything dramatic will be done to address the skills shortage in the construction industry during 2020, but I predict we may see some increase in the price of steel. Like any raw material, the price is driven by supply and demand as well as economic factors. Most industry commentators are predicting a boost in construction, which is one of the main industries which use steel, and therefore an upward trend in the price of steel, particularly if sourced from China. As UK manufacturing and construction industries begin to surface from the turmoil caused by the uncertainty of Brexit and political leadership I agree that steel demand will begin to rise and therefore I predict prices will also rise.