Small firms report improvement in confidence despite poor conditions
Small firms have reported a "marked improvement" in sentiment in recent months, but a majority still say overall business conditions are "poor", according to a survey by the Small Firms Association (SFA).
The lobby group's spring business survey showed that 58pc describe the overall business environment as either "poor" or "very poor" as the economy remains in recession and access to credit continues to be tight.
Still, the figure is down from 70pc reported in November and 75pc a year ago.
Significantly, just under half of almost 600 companies polled expect the business environment to be as bleak over the next three months.
There has also been a significant increase in confidence among respondents in their own businesses, with 28pc saying they were upbeat about their prospects, compared to 15pc late last year.
"Entrepreneurial businesses that are well structured and well managed will see opportunity in uncertainty," said SFA director Patricia Callan.
"However, they need assistance from Government to provide support and create an environment that will assist them in the creation of jobs and help them become more productive, innovative and in control of their costs."
Broken down by sector, companies involved in services and manufacturing were broadly more positive than those in distribution.
Business activity across the board was also reported to be higher than at any other quarter since the survey began early last year.
The proportion of companies that are expecting increases in sales in the next three months stood at 39pc, while those eyeing higher profitability stood at 35pc.
Separately, an investor confidence survey by Rabodirect found that 75pc of Irish respondents are "confident" about their financial situation over the next three months.