Businesses in Northern Ireland confident for 2014

Businesses in Northern Ireland are showing increased confidence for the year ahead, according to a survey by the Northern Ireland Chambers of Commerce (NICC).

The NICC's Quarterly Economic Survey collected responses from 350 businesses and reported that all key indicators, known as balances, remain positive, with many improving.

Key findings include:

  • Balances in the manufacturing sector improved in Q4 2013, with export sales at +14 per cent and orders at +12 per cent
  • Sales balances in the services sector increased in Q4 from +20 per cent to +34 per cent, and orders increased 15 points to +32 per cent
  • 73 per cent of local business plan to target new markets this year
  • 62 per cent intend to make new investments in their products
  • Three quarters of businesses predict growth for 2014, with only one in ten expecting their outlook to worsen.

Despite this positivity, the pace of economic recovery in Northern Ireland is uneven and lags behind the rest of the UK.

The NICC found that:

  • 53 per cent of businesses surveyed said their costs had risen above the rate of inflation
  • Half of manufacturers and 38 per cent of local service companies reported recruitment issues
  • The cashflow balance in the manufacturing sector stands at -12 per cent, meaning more companies are reporting negative cashflow than are recording improvements.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the NICC, welcomed the results of the survey:

"According to the latest survey results the economic recovery gathered pace in Northern Ireland over the past three months. Yet again most of the main balance figures increased on the previous quarter and businesses are generally more confident about the future. We are especially happy that our members' business prospects for 2014 are generally positive.

"We are especially delighted to see that three quarters of businesses envisage that they will target new markets in 2014."