12% of UK private travel and leisure businesses show ‘zombie’ symptoms

KPMG UK - zombie firms

New analysis from KPMG UK has reported that 12% of private travel and leisure businesses display one or more of the symptoms associated with zombies.

The report shows that the rise of so-called ‘zombie firms’ (companies under sustained financial strain) is threatening to cause a significant drag-effect on the UK economy — with more than one in ten private businesses in the travel and leisure sector affected.

KPMG analysed around 21,000 private companies with 60% of them displaying one or more of the symptoms associated with zombies, while just 8% display three or more.

“A drag on UK productivity”

Yael Selfin, the chief economist at KPMG in the UK, said: “The threat that zombie companies pose to the wider economy is very real, regardless of what the post-Brexit environment looks like.

“Many unproductive businesses have been able to stumble on in recent times, generating just enough profits to continue trading but without the innovation, dynamism or investment necessary to sustain bottom-line growth. This has, and will continue to, create a drag on UK productivity, which continues to lag our peers in the G7 and much of Europe.”

Worst affected industries

The worst affected industries are travel and leisure (12%), real estate (11%), professional services (10%) and financial services (10%).

KPMG’s global head of leisure and tourism, Will Hawkley, commented: “The news that 12% of privately owned UK leisure and tourism companies are classed as ‘zombies’ is concerning, but not entirely surprising. With leisure proprietors experiencing cost hikes across all major areas such as wages and business rates as well as constrained consumer spending, it is clear that the industry is suffering from factors outside of its control.

“Not entirely surprising”

Hawkley added: “However with inflation this month showing that the cost of living is rising at a slower rate than real wages, operators may be comforted by the prospect that customers could soon have more disposable income at their disposal to spend on leisure activities.

“The key to maximising this spend is to understand customer’s needs and provide an even greater level of customer experience.”

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