Confidence among small business owners has soured, according to the latest ‘Small Business Sentiment Survey’ report from the Small Firms Association (SFA), published today.
35% of SFA members feel that the business environment is improving, compared with 45% in May 2019.
SFA’s Sven Spollen-Behrens said: “2019 brought a number of significant challenges from a small business perspective. Increasing costs and regulatory burden, Brexit-related uncertainty, global trade tensions and a tightening labour market.
“As we face into a new decade there is little doubt that these mounting challenges have led to a large fall in small business owner’s confidence.
“Two-thirds of survey respondents indicated their intention to invest in their business and recruit over the coming year.
"Highlighting our healthy economy continues to drive ambition among our small business community.”
The survey results, however, also focus on several areas of concern for small firms.
Brexit, the ability to attract talent and slower economic growth are key areas of concern.
Minimum wage increase
The SFA says that the increase in the national minimum wage to €10.10, from 1 February, will hinder small business ability to Brexit-proof operations and maintain cost competitiveness.
“The best way to prepare the economy for the challenges ahead is for the Government to follow through on the publishing of a new national SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy, introduce a comprehensive tax policy that is conducive to small firms and decrease government-controlled costs,” Spollen-Behrens said.
“The fundamentals of the Irish economy are strong and economic growth and job creation are forecast to continue in 2020.
"However, Brexit poses one of the biggest challenges faced by small businesses in years and the SFA will remain focused on preparing members for the opportunities and risks to their businesses,” he concluded.