HAI CEO, Annemarie Harte commented ‘Cross-referencing this sentiment with the half-yearly results from our business index shows that Dublin is powering ahead of the rest of the country, in some cases by a ratio of 3:1. Whist I acknowledge population density and higher disposable income are contributing factors, this isn’t California or London, we are too small to have a two-tier economy and the divide is only getting wider’.
In the survey of Hardware Association Ireland (HAI) members carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A), 51% of merchants reported a better performance in the past 12 months, almost double the figure recorded in 2013 when the monitor was first completed when only 27% reported an improvement. However, there has been a decline in business profitability with 31% of members indicating a change since the same time in 2014 when 37% felt profitability was up. This hasn’t impacted on taking on new staff as 26% have taken on new staff since the same time last year.
47% of members have increased prices, that’s an increase of 39% on the previous year and over double that of the national average, 47% as opposed to 21%, according to B&A’s Business Barometer.
Commenting on the survey, HAI CEO Annemarie Harte said: “While it is encouraging to see a continued increase in activity in our sector, we know there is a clear need to rebalance economic activity with a greater focus on rural Ireland. Though we have seen national economic growth and positive signs of increased consumer spending in 2015, there is also an imperative to energise rural economic conditions with the inevitable benefit of increasing employment.
Other findings from the survey were:
Research findings are broadly positive, with just under half (48%) enforcing negative changes in 2015 as opposed to 61% last year. In addition, there has been an increase of 23% in the number of members implementing positive changes such as salary increases and bonus/profit scheme/staff benefit packages reinstatement.
Trade customers’ payments
Trade cash and credit card customers have again seen a rise in importance in the past 12 months. In terms of types of retail customers, the biggest rise relates to the importance of online customers.
Unsurprisingly, critical business issues are unchanged, with sales being the key issue of concern for members (81% citing it as a critical issue). While keeping costs to a minimum and disposable income levels also feature as critical issues for member firms.
The next 12 months
Thinking in terms of the next 12 months, just under three in five members (59%) are expecting higher business activity (+3% points on last year); 19% expect to take on more staff (vs. 15% last year) in the upcoming year, while just over half (51%) expect to raise their prices in the next 12 months (vs. just 34% in 2014). Anticipated higher business profitability remains static at 46% of member firms.
Female retail customers (60%) continue to rise in importance as a result of an increase in the level of home improvements.
When asked to take everything into account, a slight increase in optimism is evident towards both the prospects of the general business environment and their own business. However over 40% of members remained concerned about prospects for both for the next 12 months
The HAI members’ survey was conducted by B&A among 96 member retail and merchant members in June/July 2015. See below summary infographic: