Majority of Belfast businesses worried about economic outlook

Majority of Belfast businesses worried about economic outlook
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has launched the tender process for the redevelopment of a major site in the Irish Street area of Downpatrick. The Minister is pictured with Newry Mourne and Down Council Chair Michael Savage: Economic & Regeneration Director, with Newry Mourne and Down Council and Malachy McGrady, Chair of the Downpatrick Development Scheme

The vast majority of Belfast businesses believe the city’s economy will only get worse over the next six months.

A survey of 406 firms by Belfast Chamber found 71% are pessimistic about the city’s short-term prospects.

It’s the latest survey carried out by the business body in conjunction with Belfast City Council.

Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said it paints “a pretty bleak picture” for business conditions in the city.

“Whilst trading and profitability have both been strong over the past six months, there has been a stark drop in confidence for the time ahead,” he said.

The survey found that firms are less pessimistic when asked about the prospects of their own business or sector.

Just 44% believe their own business will get worse in the coming next months, with 35% predicting similar trading conditions, while 20% expect an improved picture.

But pessimism surged when asked about the city’s prospects as a whole.

“With 99% of businesses seeing fuel and electricity costs rising and other costs also on the rise, coupled with a considerable number of issues around recruiting staff reflected in the survey results, it is easy to see why optimism amongst Belfast businesses has declined,” said Mr Hamilton.

Elsewhere, the new survey showed the very mixed experience of businesses under Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

One-in-three felt their business has been negatively disrupted by Brexit, while 30% said it had no impact.

Of the 106 Belfast businesses trading in the Republic, 36% reported increased profitability in the past six months and 42% of the 41 firms trading with the rest of the EU also reported higher half year profits.

Simon Hamilton said businesses in Belfast have continued to exhibit an ability to weather whatever storm they may face.

“Although it seems that the impact of the pandemic has receded, it has been replaced by a whole host of new challenges,” he said.

“I am always impressed by the business community’s capacity to adapt and innovate but it is clear that on top of every ounce of resilience they possess, many will need urgent help from both government and a restored executive.”