Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland sales hit five-year low - business leaders say Stormont 'safeguard' needed

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland businesses have said the year has started badly, with domestic sales at their lowest in five years.

According to the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry quarterly survey with business advisory firm BDO, the performance of manufacturers is well below average.

And over three-quarters of firms say they are under pressure to increase wages.

The Chamber called on the NI Executive to get back up and running “to safeguard the future of the economy amid a troubling domestic backdrop”.

Christopher Morrow, head of policy at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “It has been a poor start to 2018 for the local economy.

"There are still some signs of growth but overall this has slowed and there are concerns for both manufacturing and services sectors. Northern Ireland is the weakest performing UK region across many of our key economic indicators, particularly manufacturing.

“We are seeing a growing sense of frustration among our members at the lack of progress on major issues including Brexit and the lack of Executive which are impacting on businesses’ bottom line. 

"We can't accept this any longer - it is damaging the economy. In what is a tired plea, we must see an Executive back up and running in order to safeguard the future of the economy amid a troubling domestic economic backdrop.”

Mr Morrow said there was increasing pressure on chamber members to increase wages.

"This could prove challenging when so many are already facing wider cost pressures and a squeeze on profitability," he said.

Brian Murphy, managing partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said: "Unemployment in Northern Ireland is currently at its lowest rate in a decade, and this coupled with the findings of this report, that local businesses are still recruiting, is a demonstrable indication of the confidence of local businesses to continue to grow despite the challenges that exist.

“The absence of the NI Executive and the lack of clarity regarding the arrangements for Brexit is clearly a matter of concern for many.  However, this report shows there is also an increase in investment intentions by local businesses. This is a welcome sign that despite the current uncertainty at a government level, businesses in Northern Ireland will persevere and plan for future success."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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