BARELY a fifth of all businesses increased their sales at Christmas, as markets across the country remained stagnant, it emerged yesterday.
The latest Business Monitor survey from cross-border trade group InterTradeIreland shows 79pc of companies reported flat or decreasing sales over the festive period, compared to the same time in 2011.
According to the agency, growth was confined mainly to manufacturing and business services companies with "large year-on-year increases in the number of (these) companies reporting sales growth".
Manufacturing and business services companies are also optimistic about the year ahead and expect to increase sales and employee numbers.
The report confirmed the trend seen elsewhere of growth in exporting companies but stagnation in the domestic-focused sector.
Companies that export or who have had cross-border sales are much more likely to report increased sales and less likely to be affected by new competitors to the market, InterTrade found.
Exporters are also more optimistic about increasing sales in the next year.
Unsurprisingly, companies in manufacturing and business services are most likely to export.
Only 30pc of all companies are doing business overseas, however.
InterTradeIreland's strategy and policy director Aidan Gough said the report showed the importance of looking beyond Ireland for trade opportunities.
"It is clear the burden of leading economic recovery is falling on too few. We need to get more businesses exporting and indeed innovating."
Like a lot of businesses, Mr Gough highlighted the lack of credit being made available for small and medium-sized firms.
"The incidence of applying for credit remains low, with just over two-in-10 businesses having applied for finance. However, of those that had applied for finance, few reported being unsuccessful.
"Most businesses are unaware of schemes available to support them from state agencies," he added.