MORE than 1,500 business in Bournemouth are in significant financial distress and the number is on the rise.

The authors of a new report say the figures point to a “winter of discontent” for local business, with the hospitality and food and drink manufacturing sectors hardest hit.

Brexit uncertainty and the decline of the high street have both been cited as factors.

The figures are from Begbies Tranyor’s Red Flag Alert report, which monitors the financial health of UK companies.

It found 1,530 firms in the town were in significant financial distress during the final quarter of 2018, up two per cent on the previous quarter.

Year-on-year, the number of ailing businesses remained static, but the insolvency firm expects the figure to increase during 2019.

Begbies Traynor found the number of businesses in significant financial distress in the hotels and accommodation sector had risen by 18 per cent, while in food and drink manufacturing the figure had risen 13 per cent.

However, the number of financial services firms and food and drink retailers in difficulty was down on the previous quarter.

Julie Palmer, regional managing partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “After a period of relative stability, these figures for Q4 show that Bournemouth businesses have experienced a winter of discontent.

“Customers for traditional shopfront retailers are going online and the uncertainty of Brexit is having an effect on investment in a number of sectors.

“It seems, for the last quarter at least, that businesses are holding out for a decision on the terms of Brexit in order to see where they stand, which is having a knock‐on effect on consumer confidence.

“With 2019 set to be a year of change, Bournemouth businesses – not only retailers – will need to adapt and rapidly evolve to survive.”

Nationally, the number of businesses in ‘significant’ distress now stands at 481,000, up by 15,000 during the final quarter of 2018.

The hardest hit sector nationally was real estate and property. Not only did it see a seven per cent (3,134) increase in the number of companies in significant distress since the previous quarter, but the number rose nine per cent year-on-year – 4,013 extra businesses.