Export firms leading on recovery

Most companies across the island of Ireland are managing to grow or maintain their sales and only 10% are cutting employee numbers.

Those are the findings of the latest Business Monitor report from cross-border agency InterTradeIreland which surveyed 1,000 businesses inNorthern Ireland and the Republic.

It found 25% of businesses have witnessed an increase in trade over the last three months, the highest level since the second quarter of 2011, while 39% saw trade hold steady and 35% a decline. Companies which export have proven the most robust with 41% of those likely to report an increase in sales against only 21% for those which rely solely on domestic markets.

Worryingly, only 16% of businesses surveyed said they engage in “some type of export activity”.

But when it come to staffing levels, 83% said they’d retained their staffing levels in the second quarter. Aidan Gough, strategy and policy director at InterTradeIreland, welcomed the more positive showing.

“The road to recovery has proven to be long and challenging but there are now some positive trends emerging from our survey of businesses both north and south this quarter,” he said. “The business environment is stabilising, with over half of companies describing their business as stable (51%), the haemorrhaging of jobs has stemmed and exporters are doing well.”

Despite signs of recovery, he warned more obstacles must be overcome before economic health is fully regained.

“There is still a long way to go in terms of companies experiencing growth, with only 13% indicating that they are in expansion mode at the moment,” Mr Gough said.

“Nevertheless, the results point to an expectation of a potential uplift in sales and employment numbers which are good indicators of business confidence.

“There remain, however, potential stumbling blocks on the road to full recovery. The issue of rising costs, particularly energy costs and the costs of overheads, is posing a real challenge to businesses while cashflow problems related to repayment of debt and access to finance could yet derail the undoubted upward momentum. We are now at a critical juncture.”