Sat 6th Jul 2013
Exports Sagging – New Chamber Survey
Almost a third of companies reported a slippage in exports during the final quarter of 2011, according to a new survey of business performance and prospects by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
The survey of 600 companies, commissioned by the Chamber, found that 30 per cent had experienced a downturn in export sales, five percentage points up from the 25 per cent reporting a decrease in sales over the third quarter of 2011.
A further 38 per cent said export sales had remained the same during the last two quarters of last year.
The study, carried out by Belfast-based Perceptive Insight as part of the Chamber’s Export First initiative, which is backed by Northern Bank, A&L Goodbody and ASM, also found a majority of companies (40%) expected turnover to rise this year.
But 30 per cent expected turnover to increase over the next 12 months. On profitability, the companies were almost evenly split between those expecting sales to increase (34%) and those projecting a downturn (36%).
On overall sales throughout the United Kingdom, 26 per cent said these had increased, 29 per cent reported a decrease and the remainder reported no change in the last quarter on the previous three months.
Ann McGregor, Northern Ireland Chamber Chief Executive, commenting on the survey’s findings, said: “What the survey shows is that most exporters are effectively treading water, some are beginning to experience a slowdown in business.
“Concern about the likely impact of the global recession on sales abroad especially over the next few years led us to launch our Export First programme last year.”
Angela McGowan, Chief Economist at Northern Bank, said: “With the euro crisis still unresolved there is no doubt that 2012 will be yet another challenging year for international trade. But nonetheless, export led growth will remain one of the key drivers for our economic recovery this year and in the years ahead. The slippage in sales in the last quarter of 2011 is not entirely surprising given the impact of the debt crisis in Europe and its impact upon both uncertainty and exchange rates. However, temporary problems should not deter government from tackling any barriers to export and supporting businesses or sectors which are seeking opportunities overseas.”
Caroline Keenan, Tax Director at ASM said: “Export First provides a range of practical support measures, including workshops on export procedures, opportunities and finance, which companies, both large and small and across all sectors, can use to meet the challenges that are clearly affecting sales.
Peter Stafford, Corporate Partner of A&L Goodbody, said: “The setback in exports throughout the UK will clearly adversely affect the Government’s aim of creating 100,000 new exporters over the next few years.”
The survey by Perceptive Insight also found that 60 per cent of companies said employment levels had remained constant in the final quarter of last year, a similar result to the previous quarter.
The percentage reporting new jobs increased slightly, by two per cent, to 21 per cent. But companies reporting a decrease in employment also rose slightly, from 17 per cent in the third quarter of last year to 18 per cent in the final three months. Fewer companies expect to be adding jobs in the current quarter – 14 per cent, down from 16 per cent in the third quarter.
Companies seeking recruits reported difficulties in key areas such as experience and skills. Most (58%) said finding suitable professional/managerial staff had been difficult.
The report by Perceptive Insight can be downloaded below: