IN the latest Cork Chamber Economic Trends Survey, supported by Ulster Bank, Cork Chamber asked the business outlook on the second quarter of 2021 and the year ahead, and member thoughts on the most recent business quarter, Q1 2021, encapsulating the period within which Ireland moved into its third Level 5 lockdown.
The Q1 2021 trends report on the business priorities for the Cork region, and business action areas under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Cork Chamber President, Paula Cogan, commenting on the results: “Q1 2021 has been an incredibly challenging time right across the board. At the outset of the pandemic in 2020, we talked of resilience, and the most recent quarter has certainly required a huge amount of resilience from businesses, communities, and individuals everywhere.
"It’s an encouraging testament to the Cork business community that, while there have been what seemed like insurmountable challenges at times, these were tackled and approached with the pragmatism and determination that shines through time and again from businesses here in Cork.
"We saw a very positive steadying of business confidence in this first quarter with 84% of respondents reporting business confidence, consistent with the previous quarter Q4 2020 which noted 83% of respondents indicating confidence, an upward trajectory from the 68% in Q3 of 2020.
“The latest survey also shows that 42% of respondents anticipate an increase in turnover in the second quarter of 2021 where we should see the pent-up demand in the economy being supported by the reopening expected in the months ahead.
"We also report that 43% of respondents are expecting an increase to employee numbers over the 12 months ahead, with businesses clearly planning for the reopening.
"Government must support this planning with timely engagement that supports and facilitates these efforts, offering as much certainty and communicating on developments as early as possible to the business community.
“The latest trends also report an encouraging stabilisation of confidence in the Irish economy with 52% of respondents reporting confidence, a marked increase from the 29% in Q3 2020. Business members indicated the continued support for and commitment to economic recovery and resilience, including Covid supports as the number one priority for business.
"This was followed by international & regional connectivity and the championing of issues relevant to Cork as key priority areas that the business community are keen to see continued emphasis and progress on. All areas which are crucial if we want to see confidence grow.”
Pat Horgan, Head of SME Banking with Ulster Bank commented: “It is very encouraging to see the much-needed boost in confidence in the first quarter of 2021. With the vaccine rollout continuing and the potential easing of further restrictions on the horizon, many businesses will be looking forward to welcoming back their customers after a difficult few months.
"While Covid-19 remains the top threat to business growth, according to this latest survey, we know from speaking to our customers that Irish businesses are resilient and we are actively supporting our business customers every day, by working with them, listening to them, and lending to them.”
Ms Cogan concluded: “As part of the Q1 2021 trends survey we also asked members about business action areas under the UN Sustainable Development Goals. When asked on which of the 17 UN SDGs are championed most strongly, the majority of businesses indicated SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 3: Good Health & Wellbeing, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 13: Climate Action, and SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure as the top priority areas currently.
"It is reassuring to see the awareness and note the engagement with the UN SDGs from across the business community as these set out an international blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable, resilient future long term and for all."