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Third of firms say will hire in 2014

Tuesday, January 14 11:33:21

Nearly a third of firms expect to take on staff this year while 44pc say they expect better business growth as confidence returns to Ireland's enterprises, according to a new survey from McCann FitzGerald.

The research, which was compiled by Amarach, and entitled 'Half full? Half empty?' found that, on the whole, firms are cautiously optimistic as they head into 2014. They expect to grow their sales overseas (driving trade), increase their capital expenditure (driving investment) and increase their staff levels (driving consumer spending) in 2014.

In terms of trade with overseas markets, 54pc expect their overseas sales in 2014 to be higher than in 2013 with Europe expected to provide more opportunities than previously was the case (targeted by 46pc of Irish exporters in 2014 versus 36pc in 2013). However, competitiveness still remains the number one business priority for the year ahead and the majority (63pc) foresee rising costs as a threat to their growth ambitions, while 58pc worry about a lack of finance inhibiting growth.

Commenting on the research, John Cronin, Chairman of McCann FitzGerald, said: "This research has captured a picture of corporate Ireland at a crucial stage in our economic recovery."

Mr. Cronin added: "The findings bode well for Ireland's economic growth in 2014 as businesses play a crucial role in driving investment, trade and consumer spending. Whilst acknowledging continuing fragility in the economy and the eurozone, the weight of expectations and planned activity is clearly balanced towards a positive outlook, one comprised of more than mere business optimism."

One of the most encouraging findings is the expectation which businesses have around recruitment for 2014. In recent times, businesses have been cautious about hiring - roughly equal proportions have increased their staff numbers as have reduced them in the past year (though this doesn't necessarily equate to the same 'number' of jobs). However, all that is about to change with almost a third of those surveyed expecting to hire more staff in the year ahead, and only 10pc anticipate a reduction in headcount.

Looking at the M and A landscape, over the next 18 months, some 16pc of those surveyed expect to buy or sell a business. The biggest change is expected in terms of location, withalmost 60pc of those planning M&A activity in 2014, planningto do so in Ireland. This is up from just 39pc in the last three years.

The survey examined the share of online sales in terms oftotal revenues for Irish businesses. In 2013, nearly half of those businesses surveyed didn't generate any sales online. Looking ahead to 2014 the research showed that the expectation is that the share of 'offline' business (with no online sales) is expected to fall dramatically to a little over a third by the end of the year.

The vast majority of firms agree that social media will berelevant to their business in 2014. Corporate reputation in the digital world is a growing challenge for many businesses, as is the dilemma of managing staff access to social media. Only 18pc of the firms surveyed allowed staff access all the time,48pc offer some to limited access, and a sizable 18pc blockstaff access completely.