Most SMEs plan to boost investment as credit crunch eases
Two-thirds of small and medium businesses questioned for a new survey said they were planning to increase investment over the coming year, in a sign of recovery for the sector.
Nine out of ten are confident about the prospects for the economy in the year ahead, while one in eight are favourable about their own business, according to the PwC survey.
Leading the way in driving the rise in growth and confidence is expansion into new export markets at 32pc, up from 24pc last year, as well as the demand for new products and innovation.
John Dunne of PwC private business services said that as the economy continues to show robust growth, SMEs are looking for growth opportunities.
"The survey is good news for the Irish SME sector, many of whom are targeting the export market. While still high, many of the challenges of the past are now beginning to show signs of easing up such as access to finance, skills and the overall tax burden," Mr Dunne said.
"However, as a small open economy heavily dependent on foreign markets, there is no time for complacency and private Irish businesses should continue to keep a close watch on all areas of operation and look to really exploit the benefits that digital technologies have to offer."
Over three-quarters expect to increase revenues in the year ahead and over half, at 58pc, plan to increase headcount, albeit slightly down on last year.
For the last few years, finance, and the access to finance, has been high on the agenda of Ireland's SMEs.
However, this year's survey finds that the inability to finance growth has eased with only 44pc viewing this as a business threat compared to 61pc last year. Furthermore, more SMEs are planning to avail of 'other' sources of finance compared to last year.
At the same time one in five are planning new borrowings in the year ahead, up from 12pc last year, while a similar proportion, around 20pc, are planning to raise new equity, again up from 8pc last year.
The survey also shows that not all SMEs are convinced by the drive toward digital, with 48pc saying digital technologies are creating operational efficiencies; 47pc saying digital technologies are improving brand and reputation, with only 42pc saying they are creating value in the areas of cybersecurity and customer experience.
Sixty two SMEs took part in the survey covering a range of sectors.