Profitability and Easing of Price Rises Points to Business Optimism Across the Island

The latest Business Monitor from InterTradeIreland reveals that stability is the prevailing trend among firms across the island.  

The survey of over 750 companies found that business performance remained consistent at the end of 2024, with the majority of firms (60 per cent) reporting they are stable, while 32 per cent say they are growing.

Below the topline result, the sentiment among businesses is positive. 73 per cent of firms report they were profitable over the last 12 months. This is the highest overall percentage since Q3 2019, before the Covid pandemic.

While the vast majority of businesses are expecting employee numbers to remain the same in the next six months, there are clear signs of optimism.  Martin Robinson, InterTradeIreland’s Director of Strategy, comments, “It is interesting to note that 42 per cent of larger SMEs are predicting employee growth over this period.

With both economies in Ireland and Northern Ireland sitting at close to full employment, we can see from our data that recruitment is one of the top issues for businesses.  I would encourage firms to get in touch with InterTradeIreland to find out how we can help them innovate to drive productivity and address skill gaps.”

Aside from the difficulties that firms are finding in attracting the correct talent, the other top two issues reported by businesses remain energy costs and overheads. However, the Business Monitor indicates that businesses believe the speed of price rises should slow down over the next six months, as inflationary pressures ease in the wider economy.

Looking ahead, 58 per cent of companies predict their prices will remain the same, while the number of businesses saying they have increased their prices significantly has halved since the beginning of this year (from 30 per cent in Q1 2023 to 15 per cent in Q4 2023).  Only 3 per cent of firms anticipate their prices will increase significantly in the next 6 months.

Businesses are also now more aware of the circular economy as a means to reuse resources and to reduce cost and wastage.  Two-thirds (63 per cent) of firms say they incorporate circular economy principles, with a further 15 per cent working towards this.

While two-thirds of businesses state that sustainability and net zero are important, only 20 per cent actually have a plan, with 17 per cent developing one. Of those businesses that don’t yet have a net-zero plan in place, 7 in 10 don’t foresee themselves developing one in the next five years.

 Martin comments, “It’s short-sighted of SMEs not to start to think about the sustainability question. The transition to a low-carbon world is lifting technology investment and is attractive to funders.”

“Increasingly, larger companies and public sector organisations are seeking green credentials from smaller companies in their supply chains. Looking at new ways of doing things can also make you more efficient and save money. A number of the partners that we collaborate with, including Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland, have various schemes in place to help businesses integrate sustainability practices that will also enhance their competitive advantage. At this point, business should start to explore the support available.”