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Around 60% of Belfast firms ‘expect to see sales rising in next months’


Belfast city centre

Belfast city centre

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Belfast city centre

Around 60% of Belfast businesses say they expect to see a boost in sales over the next six months but almost all firms are being burdened with rising costs.

And around 42% of companies say uncertainty around the impact of the pandemic remains a concern.

That’s according to a survey of 400 firms carried out by Belfast City Council in partnership with Belfast Chamber.

Highlighting the impact of soaring input costs, 95% of respondents reported an increase in fuel and electricity costs, with a similar number reporting higher wholesale prices and more expensive raw materials.

The first sentiment survey was carried out in summer 2021, with the latest survey of businesses carried out in February and March this year.

More than a third of businesses (36%) said they planned to recruit in the next six months to meet staff shortages, with the majority (60%) saying they expect to maintain staffing levels.

Around 42% of businesses said they planned to make investments in IT solutions for their business within the next year, while 19% said they were planning to invest in net zero carbon initiatives, with a focus on recycling, reducing waste and staff training to raise awareness of sustainability.

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“The results of the latest Belfast Business Survey illustrate the almost unique nature of the economic situation we find ourselves in at present,” Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, said.

“While businesses in the city are reporting that turnover and profitability are up, and up significantly in some cases, and that they anticipate both continuing to rise over the next six months, on the flip side, sizeable challenges remain.

“The rising cost of doing business is highlighted quite starkly in our survey, with a staggering 95% of businesses reporting an increase of fuel and electricity costs and 85% saying the cost of raw materials have gone up.”

And Lisa Toland, senior manager for economy, Belfast City Council, said: “This sentiment tracker gives us important insights into how our business community is faring as the Covid recovery journey continues. It gives us valuable information to help us to identify and plan the most effective support for businesses.

“While there are undoubtedly challenges for our business community – not just pandemic-related – there’s also positivity, both in terms of the trading outlook and employment. It’s also insightful that investing in staff and improving their health and wellbeing is something that businesses are looking for more support around, as it demonstrates a commitment to making employees feel valued and rewarded.”