Brexit blues hits small business as sentiment slumps

Business owners said they intend to recruit and increase wages where possible, despite falling optimism.

By Laura Roddy Reporter, Fora

LESS THAN HALF of small business owners feel that the business environment is improving, according to a survey conducted by the Small Firm Association (SFA). 

It found that 45% of its members feel that the business environment is improving – a 14 point drop in confidence compared to November 2018. The SFA said such a large slump is a first for its small business sentiment survey.

Despite the dreary outlook, business owners did say they intended to recruit and increase wages where possible. 

Sven Spollen-Behrens, the SFA Director, said “rolling Brexit uncertainty”, increasing tax, wage levels and additional regulations as the challenges that are “weighing heavy” on small business owners. 

“Such challenges make it difficult for small businesses to remain competitive, expand and invest,” Spollen-Behrens said. 

“In the long-run wage increases will only be sustainable if we manage to reduce business costs or improve productivity among small business,” he said. 

Spollen-Behrens called for a business strategy that puts a focus on “the 98% of businesses employing half of the private sector workforce”, saying it would help boost the number and performance of small businesses. 

Despite the Irish economy forecast to remain strong for the remainder of 2019, Spollen-Berhens said Brexit “continues to pose one of the biggest challenges faced by small businesses in years”. 

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