The positive effects of economic recovery in the Netherlands are becoming increasingly clear to see. Consumers are gaining confidence, while businesses are investing more. Disposable income and consumer spending forecasts are sunnier than they were a year ago. Export-oriented companies in sectors such as industry, food, agriculture and trade are already feeling the wind in their sails.
With the economy gathering momentum, all sectors are set to benefit in the course of 2014. For some, however, such as retail and construction, the effects will take somewhat longer to feed through. These, in a nutshell, are the conclusions of ABN AMRO’s eleven 2014 Sector Outlooks, which were published today.
No sector left behind
The industrial sector – one of the mainstays of the Dutch economy – is fundamentally in good shape. In 2013, machine builders and metal products manufacturers were particularly successful, with machines and transport equipment accounting for a quarter of the total value of Dutch exports. The agricultural sector saw its exports climb to record highs in 2013, and the outlook for 2014 is similarly bright. For transport, ABN AMRO projects a return to modest growth of sales and volumes, and the TMT sector, too, should be enjoying a pickup in sales. In retail, sales volumes are likely to bottom out after seven consecutive years of contraction. Building companies in practically every market segment should start seeing their business pick up.
Consumers driving change
Shifts in consumer behaviour are radically changing the way some sectors do business. The retail sector is a case in point. Consumers no longer think in terms of separate channels, but want to be able to buy goods 24/7 through whatever channel, online or offline. In the food sector, conscious consumers are a growing target group, with a growing appreciation of sustainable, locally produced goods. The TMT-sector, ABN AMRO believes, can expect a giant shift in the way private individuals and businesses use their products and services, with media preferences changing and foreign TV companies posing a new challenge in the domestic market.
Cooperation widens scope for growth
The arrival, in wave after wave, of new technologies is another factor with a major impact on a number of sectors. Industrial enterprises, for example, must respond to the demand for customisation. This calls for further automation and robotisation of processes in so-called smart factories, which are steadily gaining ground. In the leisure business, too, technological innovation is essential for players who want to make the most of opportunities. One way of doing this is by using internet not only as a sales channel, but also as a means of increasing transparency in the sector. For providers of corporate services, the life cycle of business models is becoming shorter and shorter. In this sector the only way to continue growing, in ABN AMRO’s view, is to keep innovating and offering new service concepts. Besides innovation, cooperation with players along the supply chain is crucial for companies pursuing long-term growth. In agriculture, vertical cooperation in sales, product development and cultivation can lead to more stable returns. Parties in the construction sector need to work together to leverage the opportunities presented by sustainable building and an ageing society. Transport, too, must improve supply chain transparency in order to make the sector more future-ready.
"The data suggests that the economic outlook will continue to improve in 2014. Signs of recovery are visible in all sectors. What is encouraging is that economic recovery is happening not just at a global level, but also within the Netherlands,” Jacques van de Wal, head of ABN AMRO Group Economics,. emphasises. “To continue growing in the long term, various sectors will need to invest in cooperation and innovation, which will enable them to respond in time to changes in their markets."