SMEs’ outlook improving: poll

New figures from small firms lobby group, Isme show that SMEs are considerably more upbeat regarding key performance indicators than they were 12 months ago.

The organisation’s latest SME Business Trends survey — for the second quarter of the year — shows increases in 10 of the 13 indicators, in comparison with the same three-month period last year. For instance, there was a net 10% increase in the amount of respondents confident about their business prospects. The first quarter of the year only saw a 4% year-on-year rise, in that respect.

Elsewhere, figures showed an annualised increase of 5% in the number of SMEs confident about future employment chances, while 7% more firms have improved sales outlooks than this time last year. While there was no percentage increase in the areas of profitability expectations and current sales, there was a near 30% year-on-year decline in the outlook for the broader business environment.

According to Isme chief Mark Fielding, the survey points to a dual economy of domestic sector struggle “beside an international trading sector emerging slowly from the recession”.

On the domestic challenges, Mr Fielding said the retail sector, in particular, will see further hardship, with more job losses and sales declines anticipated in the second half of this year.

Isme’s survey noted there was an annualised decline in seven of the ten specific retail indicators. He also attacked the Government for not having enough SME representation on the Action Plan for Jobs implementation group and said expanding the export capacity of the SME sector and outsourcing more state sector services to SMEs would help boost the economy and improve the business environment.

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