CHESTER’S Chamber of Commerce chief says recession has advantages for business, after a national survey reported the “frightening” effect of the economic downturn.

This week, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the results of its survey of 6,000 businesses were “awful” and the worst since it began in 1989.

It was the worst December for UK retail sales in at least 14 years, with like-for-like sales in December down 3.3% on a year ago.

But Chester, Ellesmere Port and North Wales’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Bob Williams, says companies in the city should be poised to “take advantage” of opportunities offered by consumers’ belt-tightening.

He said: “I think that some of our small to medium-sized businesses can and I think they should be looking at those services and products that are marginal to the core business, in order to divert their efforts and financial support to key areas.

Mr Williams said companies that have diversified should now concentrate on their core skills.

He added: “The economic survey results should be focusing the attention of businessmen to review the products and services they provide.

“At the same time they should be honing down on marginal services they provide. We can always come back to other services when times are easier.”

Mr Williams warned high street chains might need to cut staffing levels and maintain the sales that have so far shifted less stock than anticipated.