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One third of exporters report lower sales due to Covid-19

A third of exporting firms have seen their sales fall so far this year, a new survey from Enterprise Ireland has found.

The research also found that 85% of companies expect that Brexit will add up to 10% to their cost base.

The survey of 728 firms conducted by Enterprise Ireland details the contrasting fortunes of the exporting sector here.

While some struggled with reduced demand, others such as companies in the life sciences and digital sectors, are more resilient and saw their export sales increase by 30%.

Respondents had mixed views about the future though, with just over half feeling optimistic, predicting that the outlook next year will improve.

57% said they expect to grow their exports, while 83% said they intend to increase the number of staff they employ in 2021.

Eight in ten of those who took part said they are either confident or very confident about the international trading environment next year.

“Irish exporters came into 2019 from a position of strength recording exports of more than €25bn in 2019,” said Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland.

“However, 2020 has proven to be very challenging so far. While our clients have largely succeeded in retaining customers across the world, we know that customer contracts have declined by 10%, compared to last year.”

The companies surveyed are among those attending this year’s International Markets Week.

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland, the week it normally involves physical one-to-one meetings between firms and market advisors across the world.

However, this year because of Covid-19, the 700 companies will meet the 140 advisors from 40 countries in 2,000 virtual meeting instead.

Today’s survey also found that market diversification, innovation and research and competitiveness were the main priorities for companies when it comes to facing Brexit.

According to Enterprise Ireland, there are around 270 of its client companies who are most impacted by both Covid-19 and Brexit.

Launching this year’s event, An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar said the exporting sector will continue to be a strong engine for growth and jobs in the Irish economy.

“I’m heartened to see that over half of companies expect to grow their exports next year and that 83% expect to hire new staff. This is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Irish business owners,” he said.

In relation to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, the survey found the main areas of focus and innovation to be around remote working, customer engagement and virtual selling.

“My message to exporters is, that if they haven’t done so already, to apply for Enterprise Ireland funding to implement their recovery strategies from Covid-19, and to get ready for January 1st, when customs procedures will change fundamentally and there will be an impact on their cost base,” said Julie Sinnamon.

“Now is the time to act and to avail of the supports from Enterprise Ireland, and across Government, to protect and grow their businesses, and to adapt their products and services for customers, as we enter a new world”.

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