Business Landscape Increasingly Competitive

20th November 2023

Posted In: The Topic

The latest quarterly business monitor from the economic cross-border body InterTradeIreland reveals that the overall trading environment is becoming increasingly competitive.

While the topline sentiment shows the number of firms in a stable position is positive this quarter (61 per cent) and seven in ten say they are profitable,

the volume of businesses in growth mode has fallen to 29 per cent, from 36 per cent in quarter two.

This slight drop, coupled with new issues emerging, suggests that firms are increasingly aware of tighter market conditions. This point is most visible in the fact that a quarter of SMEs say that new entrants to the market present a challenge for their business, along with a fifth reporting discounting by rivals and late payments from customers as concerns.

The main issues facing businesses remain energy bills (64 per cent) and rising costs of overheads (64 per cent). However, both of these issues have dropped significantly in importance compared to the same period last year.

InterTradeIreland’s Director of Strategy, Martin Robinson comments: ‘Our data indicates that business owners are now becoming more focused on issues other than costs. Without reading too much into one quarter of data, it’s notable that new competitors is such an issue currently, when it has barely featured on the radar of most businesses previously.

It’s important for firms to remember that they can take action to increase their competitiveness by investing in innovation and taking advantage of new trade opportunities.”

The survey, which questions over 750 firms from across the island, shows that a third of firms have adapted to the new trading conditions post-Brexit, while half say Brexit has had no impact to date. However, 71 per cent of firms report that they do not yet have knowledge of the Windsor Framework requirements.

Meanwhile at a sectoral level, 63 per cent of manufacturing businesses report they have not investigated the impact of the new agreement. This highlights a growing need for clear and reliable information on emerging trading conditions.

“On the surface, these figures may appear surprising. However, while negotiations were taking place, it was understandable that businesses would wait to see the outworkings of any new trading arrangements. With elements of the Windsor Framework now starting to take effect, it’s an important time for individual firms to explore what it means for them,” says Martin.

“This doesn’t have to be a hugely daunting task for firms to take on alone. Our new Cross-Border Trade Hub is a vital resource for SMEs who want to know more about customs, VAT, regulation, and cross-border employment. Alongside our other bespoke trade programmes, SMEs will be well placed to take advantage of the growing £10 billion cross-border market. I’d encourage businesses to contact us to see how we can help provide the answers to their questions and the practical support they need to grow their cross-border trade,” Martin concludes.

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