Belfast Telegraph

Smaller firms bear brunt of downturn

By Margaret Canning

Small firms are still suffering most from the continued economic downturn north and south of the border, a survey has said.

InterTradeIreland's business monitor survey said 44% of firms surveyed reported they were 'contracting/trying to survive or winding up'. And nearly 50% of firms with less than 10 staff said they were in that category, compared to just 14% of firms with more than 50 staff.

Small firms also reported that they had kept dropping their prices in the last year but the cross-border body said price-slashing would not be a sustainable policy in the long-term.

Aidan Gough, director of strategy and policy at InterTradeIreland, said: "Too many firms appear to be stuck in a rut with nearly half of businesses contracting or in survival mode. Small firms in particular are facing the most difficult challenges.

"Reversing the 'process of decline' will depend on helping more of these firms develop new products, services and markets. InterTradeIreland has recently launched two new programmes to help small firms develop their export and innovation capabilities to increase the sustainability of micro-enterprises in the local economy."

Just 8% of firms had taken on staff during the period of the quarterly survey, while 14% had let staff go.

But some of the findings of the business monitor were more positive. Nearly two-thirds of businesses in the agriculture field were either stabilising or growing, possibly due to rising commodity prices and a strong harvest.

Activity was also up in business services, as it remained the stoniest sector for sales performance with an increase of 2% during the last quarter.

InterTradeIreland said there was a need to keep down job losses in small firms focused on the Irish market while stimulating more job opportunities among export businesses.

Its business monitor is the largest business survey on the island and monitors the performance and opinions of 1,000 firms on both sides of the border every quarter.


Amount of firms in the survey who have let staff go in last quarter