InterTradeIreland has today released their latest all-Island Business Monitor. The survey is the largest and most comprehensive business survey on the island and is based on the views of more than 750 business managers across Northern Ireland and Ireland.
According to the monitor, the business environment remains positive, with 46% of companies across the island reporting growth, while a similar amount are stable (44%).
However, InterTradeIreland these overall figures mask some worrying signs for small firms and the construction sector in particular which is viewed as a bell weather for the economy.
Nearly three in ten micro businesses report they are just breaking even at best, while the outlook for construction has softened, with one in four firms experiencing a decrease in sales this quarter.
Brexit remains the single biggest challenge with the continued uncertainty having a tangible negative impact on rising numbers of firms. Over a third (37%) of firms across the island say that Brexit is having a negative impact on their business. This is almost double the number of business compared to this time last year (the figure was 18% in the third quarter 2018).
The number of firms stepping up to the challenge and getting ready as best they can for Brexit is increasing, with 28% of cross-border traders reporting they have taken mitigating action particularly in areas such as supply chain (51%), contracts (46%) and cash flow (50%).
Commenting on the monitor, InterTradeIreland’s Designated Officer and Director of Strategy and Policy, Aidan Gough said, "Although Brexit remains the single biggest challenge facing businesses we would also draw businesses attention to the challenges and opportunities of new technology. Our latest survey shows that 70 per cent of businesses across the island do not think that changes in digital technology will have an impact on their business in the next 12 months. This is despite the fact 16 per cent have already upgraded to new smarter technologies over the past year while a further 16 per cent intend to do so over the next year. While not losing sight of the elephant in the room which is Brexit, InterTradeIreland is also focused on helping SMEs innovate and prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the future."