Credit access continues to hurt small businesses

LACK of access to overdraft facilities or bank loans is still an issue for the small business community locally and continues to have a serious effect on trading and business operations.

LACK of access to overdraft facilities or bank loans is still an issue for the small business community locally and continues to have a serious effect on trading and business operations.

That’s according to the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board figures in the bi-annual Business and Banking Confidence survey, which found that over a third of small businesses nationwide felt that the availability of credit has deteriorated since January 2011, representing 37% of all those surveyed.

These findings follow very similar figures from the January 2011 and July 2010 surveys, which also found that over a third of businesses felt that access to credit had worsened during the previous six months.

Worryingly, a greater number of respondents also felt that their business was being curtailed by bank restrictions this year, when compared to last year. In July 2010 for example, 44% of small businesses felt that their business was being curtailed by banking restrictions, compared with 48% in July 2011. In addition, 45% of those who took part in the survey consider the effect of current banking situation on trading and business operations to be “serious.”

The survey, which is being published on-line this week by the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board, includes the views of over 1,700 sole traders and small business owners throughout the Country, including those from County Kilkenny.

Commenting on the survey findings, Fiona Deegan, Business Analyst with the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board said: “What this survey shows is that lack of access to credit is hurting many small businesses here and all over the country. According to our findings, small business owners and managers feel that their businesses are being curtailed as a direct result of banking restrictions. Without access to cash flow and credit, many viable businesses are going to lose sales, customers and jobs”

As in previous surveys, there was a high level of demand reported for a small business loan scheme concept, proposed by the County and City Enterprise Boards. Nearly 7 of out 10 respondents (69%) felt that such a scheme, to provide loans of up to €20,000 to support working capital needs, would be both “helpful and desirable.”

It has also emerged that small businesses are waiting longer to get paid for their goods and services. In this survey, 64% of respondents had experienced an increased level of debtor days, compared with 60% of respondents at the start of the year.

Commenting on this finding, Fiona Deegan said: “At a time of significant cash flow difficulties, this increase in debtor days is a worrying trend. What it tells us, is that small business owners are waiting longer to get paid for their goods or services and this could cause cash flow problems for the whole small business community.”

The survey also found that nearly a third of small businesses expect turnover to be better over the next six months, when compared with the January to June period this year (32.5% of respondents).

Meanwhile, the number of business owners who feel that the current business environment was either poor or very poor, is down from January 2011 (53% felt that the overall business environment was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ in January 2011, compared with a figure of 48% in July 2011.)

The Business and Banking Confidence Survey was carried out in July this year by the County and City Enterprise Boards around the country, which are the Government Agency with responsibility for promoting Enterprise by way of training, mentoring and grant assistance.