The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) has released its Quarterly Business Trends Survey for first quarter 2018 today.
The survey was conducted in the last week of April with 844 SME respondents. Fifty two percent of respondents employ less than 10, 40% employ between 11 and 49 while the remaining 8% employ between 50 and 250. Geographically, 30% are from Dublin, 59% are spread across the rest of the country and 11% have multiple sites.
The survey shows confidence in the SME sector declining with 10 out of 12 confidence indicators showing disimprovements since the previous quarter, with business confidence dropping 8%. Brexit remains the biggest concern for SMEs followed by Labour Costs and Economic Uncertainty.
Thirty four percent of businesses will not be in a position to increase pay and 84% of businesses report an increase in their business insurance premiums.
Commenting on the results, ISME CEO, Neil McDonnell said, "Today's results are disappointing. A reversal in 10 out 12 confidence indicators reflects some of the uncertainties around business at the moment. While the economy is improving, many SMEs are struggling with excessive business costs, competitiveness, and inadequate infrastructure. These are impacting the health of the SME sector. Our latest business insurance figures show 84% of respondents have experienced an increase. On the positive side, forecasted wage increases are more optimistic than they were in Q4 2017."
He added, "Government's fixation on Foreign Direct Investment needs to change, greater focus needs to be directed toward our indigenous industrial policy. To focus on the former is to the detriment of the SME sector. A change in attitude toward the SME sector is needed."