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Kent economy grows 3.3% ahead of UK average of 3.2% thanks to distribution, retail and real estate sectors but held back by construction

By Chris Price

Kent’s economy grew by 3.3% in the year up to March, ahead of the national average according to new figures.

Distribution, retail and real estate were the largest sectors in the county’s performance say figures compiled by economists at RBS.

However an over reliance on the construction sector – which suffered a slowing of growth during a wet winter – hampered Kent businesses from expanding further.

The Kent economy has a large reliance on retail compared to other sectors
The Kent economy has a large reliance on retail compared to other sectors

The county ranked sixth among 14 areas measured in the South East, topped by a housing-market buoyed Buckingham.

Nationally it measured 40th out of 99 overall but Kent still performed ahead of the UK, which saw year-on-year growth of 3.2%.

Neighbouring East Sussex was fifth in the South East but only grew marginally more and is still measured at 3.3%.

“Kent not only kept pace with [the national average] but nosed ahead of that already strong growth..." - RBS economist Stephen Blackman

RBS economist Stephen Blackman said: “The UK economy has grown very strongly and has a spring in its step at the moment.

“Kent not only kept pace with that but nosed ahead of that already strong growth. It’s doing all the right things. This is good growth.

“Why it isn’t nosing ahead of its peers in the home counties is because there isn’t a great deal in it.

“The range from a top performing region to the tail end is 3.5% to 2.1% year on year growth. It’s quite a bunched group.”

Kent’s proximity to Europe could threaten its growth more than other counties in England, said Mr Blackman.

He added: “Events in the Eurozone and the general level of imports and exports will have an impact on the Kent economy.

“Changes in the housing market could also have an impact, given the importance of that sector.

“At the moment, that is performing well but the biggest danger is if something happens to unravel that.

“The Kent economy is slightly more reliant on construction, distribution and real estate.

“Real estate and distribution grew more than the UK average, on the back of the housing market and consumer confidence.

“But on the minus side is the construction sector because of the wet weather in the first couple of months of the year. That held the Kent economy back a bit.”

Among the businesses enjoying success in the real estate market is Tunbridge Wells and Dartford-based law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore.

Partner Gilbert Green said: “The number of property instructions received in commercial property has increased markedly in the last 12 months and the team is busier than it has been for years.

"The increase in the acquisition of sites for residential development in particular is good for the housing market and economy generally.”

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