MORE than 1,500 businesses in Bournemouth ended 2019 in “significant” financial distress, research suggests.

The figure was level with the previous quarter but one per cent up on the same period in 2018.

Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag Alert, which monitors the financial health of companies, found 494,000 businesses nationally in significant distress in the final quarter of 2019 – the highest number recorded by the research.

The figure is 81 per cent up since 2016 and a significant number of companies were formed after 2014, suggesting that younger businesses are the most vulnerable.

Real estate and property, support services, construction and retail were the sectors worst affected.

Among Bournemouth’s 1,552 businesses in significant distress, the professional services and real estate and property sectors were most affected – with rises of three per cent and two per cent between quarters.

However, some sectors showed “tentative” signs of stability, with the number of troubled firms in health and education and in support services down on the previous quarter.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor in Bournemouth, said: “Businesses and the UK economy as a whole will want to avoid a repeat performance of 2019, where distress increased to record levels on the back of ongoing uncertainty around Brexit.

“These figures clearly demonstrate the impact of this indecision, so with political certainty and a clear Brexit path, businesses in Bournemouth should, at last, be able to plan for 2020 with a greater sense of clarity.

“However, the macro-economic climate is complicated, and we are seeing clear winners and losers, as evidenced by this latest Red Flag data. Currently, we do not know if the failing performance within some sectors is due to short term confidence issues, or more fundamental economic and structural issues.

“The landscape of UK business is slowly changing. In order to capture the attentions of consumers and clients, businesses need to demonstrate that they not only have a compelling product or service at the right price, but also one that has strong environmental credentials to boot.”