Chamber: Business confidence on the wane in Cork due to Covid-19

Chamber: Business confidence on the wane in Cork due to Covid-19
Conor Healy, Cork Chamber Chief Executive and Paula Cogan President Cork Chamber. Picture John Sheehan

THERE has been a dramatic decrease in business confidence amongst business owners in Cork.

The first Cork Chamber Economic Trends Survey of 2020 was conducted as the Covid-19 pandemic moved from a concern to a high-level threat.

Now 51% of businesses in Cork indicated a decrease in turnover in the first three months of the year, compared with 9% in the last three months of 2019. For net profit, 47% indicated a decrease, at 9% in the previous quarter.

The survey results also report that 71% of businesses expect a drop in turnover in the coming quarter two, with 75% expecting a drop to net profit.

Cork Chamber President, Paula Cogan said: “Never in our lifetime have we faced a shock of this magnitude affecting all sectors of our economy, and all aspects of our society. These are extraordinary times.

“While we have a strong and resilient business community here in Cork, it is essential that businesses and the jobs they create are supported throughout this shock and beyond. The Government supports to date, and in particular the Wage Subsidy Scheme are very much welcome and as a Chamber we will continue to advocate on behalf of the business community and employees for the supports to keep businesses operational, to reopen their doors in the comings months, and to keep those that can work in work,” Ms Cogan added.

According to the survey, 80% of businesses in Cork have said they’re not confident in the Irish economy, a figure which previously sat at 13%.

In relation to employment outlook, 35% of businesses expect a decrease in employee numbers over the next 12 months, while 16% expect an increase.

“From 2018 to 2020, the greatest increase in policy provision has been to facilitate working from home, employee assistance programmes and health and wellbeing programmes for employees,” Ms Cogan said.

“While challenges remain, it is positive to report the increased focus on this area in businesses, and the increase in activity, policies and supports which are key to ensuring diverse and inclusive workplaces,” she added.

“Finally, since 2018 we have consistently reported Brexit as the number one threat to business as reported from business members. Our latest survey however is dominated by Covid-19,” Ms Cogan concluded.

Almost half of the businesses surveyed were in the services category, which includes retail, hospitality and financial services. Tourism, travel culture and arts made up 15% of respondents, which Science and Technology accounted for 12%.

Meanwhile, Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy has said that it’s vital that cashflow is addressed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as it is the number one difficulty for Cork businesses currently.

He has called for an extension and a deepening of existing supports to a six-month window for businesses.

“When we reach our economic pivot point, as many businesses as possible need to be in a position to open their doors, welcome back their teams and warm our strong economy back up again,” he said.

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