Trends and opinions from the Northern Ireland
Are you 'backin' Belfast'?
It has been estimated that traders in Belfast have lost £15 million in trade over the Christmas period, due to the flag protests.
The latest Close Brothers Business Barometer* showed that a third of businesses in NI felt that trading conditions are worse now than they were this time last year, and the knock to Christmas trade only serves to worsen the situation.
Local government have responded to traders’ woes with a £600,000 advertising campaign, ‘Backin’ Belfast’ which aims to encourage consumers to come back into the city centre to enjoy the best in shopping, food and entertainment that Belfast has to offer.
According to new research from the Department of Finance and Personnel, the pharmaceutical sector is leading the way to economic recovery in Northern Ireland after reporting a record high in output in the third quarter of last year.
Private sector services, which include IT and consulting, are also performing well, having grown for two consecutive quarters in 2012.
Our Business Barometer revealed that overall, 46% of small to medium sized firms across the country state that trading conditions now are the same as they were this time last year.
However, more than a quarter also said that they believe their fortunes will change this year and believe that business growth is on the cards.
Cash flow issues such as bad debt and late payments remain the most pressing concern for almost a quarter of SMEs in Northern Ireland. Half of respondents said that payments from customers are regularly more than 30 days late.
Two fifths of businesses felt that the ongoing Eurozone crisis is the main barrier to growth, while a further fifth say that they are finding it impossible to move forward thanks to problems accessing adequate funding.
It remains to be seen how the uncertainty surrounding the in/out EU referendum will affect business confidence in Northern Ireland but when asked, 42% of owner managers said they thought we should strongly consider leaving it.
*The Close Brothers Business Barometer is carried out on a quarterly basis. It canvasses the opinion of SME owner managers on a range of issues affecting their business.