Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland companies' confidence on the rise: survey

By Claire Weir

Three quarters of Northern Ireland companies have reported growth or stabilisation and appear increasingly more confident, according to a new survey.

A survey for Bank of Ireland UK showed that seven out of 10 of the 50 businesses polled were optimistic about prospects for 2014, with half of respondents recruiting new staff this year and 58% planning to hire new people next year.

Some 20% were growing and looking for new markets, 58% said the business was stable while 17% said they were surviving but looking to drive out further costs. Only 5% of respondents in the survey said turnover was contracting.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the bank in advance of its Northern Ireland Enterprise Week from November 15-22 which will provide a series of events and showcasing opportunities to help local businesses build the momentum for growth.

According to the survey, three quarters of companies here were using new technologies such as mobile apps, social media and the internet to market their businesses. Of those who embraced social media, 88% used Facebook, 69% used Twitter, 31% used LinkedIn, 25% used YouTube and 6% used Instagram.

The survey was conducted for Bank of Ireland UK by iReach Market Research through its Online Business Panel of 50 owners of Northern Ireland businesses ranging from small to large. It was carried out during the latter part of October. iReach also surveyed business owners in the Republic which showed that 54% of Irish businesses were growing or had stabilised while 14% were contracting.

Two thirds of business leaders in Ireland said they were optimistic about prospects for next year.

Asked in the survey how the banks could improve business momentum in Northern Ireland, 65% of the business owners said start-up packages were best, while half cited support for marketing.

Ian Sheppard, head of business and corporate banking Northern Ireland for Bank of Ireland UK, said that the optimism of companies is very encouraging.

"The survey shows companies expect growth to come from introducing new products and services, developing a skilled workforce and from general economic improvement," he said.

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