InterTradeIreland’s latest Business Monitor survey (Q4 2021) reveals that firms across the island are clawing back ground as the pandemic loosens its grip. The fresh figures shows that 41 per cent of firms are in growth mode while 44 per cent say they are stable. This is similar to pre-pandemic levels reported in Q4 2019. A further bright spot is that profitability has increased for many businesses, with well over half of firms (58 per cent) reporting they have remained in the black for the last 12 months.
However, there are three main concerns that businesses report they are continuing to grapple with over repeated quarters. Not surprisingly, Covid tops the list with 69 per cent of firms citing it as an issue, but hot on its heels are energy bills (68 per cent) and third - the cost of overheads (62 per cent). The latter two have surged as concerns that firms are increasingly keeping an eye on.
InterTradeIreland’s Acting Director of Strategy and Policy, Kerry Curran says, “It’s certainly positive to see that so many firms are stable, however as the Business Monitor shows, the context behind the figures tells a more complicated story. The impact of the pandemic and in particular higher operating costs continues to weigh heavily on firms.”
“Another concern that businesses have reported to the survey is the issue of recruitment. In particular, for those working in the construction sector and those in larger firms, it is a problem. It remains to be seen, if in the long-run the inability to attract staff will continue to be a thorn in the side of businesses, which could constrain growth.”
Meanwhile, the impact of Brexit is being felt by a similar number of businesses on either side of the border, with 49 per cent firms in Northern Ireland and 46 per cent of businesses in Ireland reporting it as an issue. However, in terms of the post-Brexit trading arrangements, less than one in ten (8 per cent) of those with cross-border sales have not adapted yet in any way. This is a drop from the previous quarter.
Kerry says, “I am constantly impressed by the resilience of businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland after an exceptionally difficult two years caused by the pandemic. Many business owners may think now is the time to catch a breath. Asked in the Business Monitor about future plans, 41 per cent of business want to focus on recovery, while just over a fifth (22 per cent) want to maintain their current position. However, there are still 22 per cent of businesses that are seeking to find new customers in order to expand - in this cohort, over a third are looking to the cross-border market to grow sales. If you want to grow your business, it makes sense to consider the opposite jurisdiction and InterTradeIreland has the advice and tools to help you make this step.”