London finance firm Close Brothers says its research shows less than 10 per cent of small firms in Londonderry and across Northern Ireland are confident about the steady recovery of the economy.
“Fewer than one in ten Northern Irish SMEs in the latest barometer survey now say they are confident about the steady recovery of the economy, with a further 40 per cent suggesting that the path back to prosperity will be slow, even though they feel the worst of the challenges associated with the economy are now behind us.
“Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of SMEs told Close Brothers they feared the economy could decline again, only slightly down from the 26 per cent of SMEs that felt this way at the beginning of the year,” the firm stated.
In addition, more than a quarter (28 per cent) actually warned that Northern Ireland had not yet seen any true economic recovery, up markedly on the 17 per cent that reported this negative outlook at the start of the year.
Just a fifth (20 per cent) of SMEs in the region expect their business to expand over the next 12 months, while half are anticipating no growth at all. A small but significant 12 per cent even expect to see their business contract over the year ahead.
“SMEs are deeply concerned about their prospects for the next 12 months,” warned Ciaran McAreavey, MD of Close Brothers Commercial Finance. “We know that many entrepreneurs and business leaders have exciting and ambitious plans for their companies, but fear their plans are not achievable against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and rising costs; in many cases, SMEs now feel even more pessimistic than they did at the beginning of the year.”