Eight in 10 Australian small businesses are finding the going tougher than a year ago, with economic uncertainty blamed for the negativity, new research has found.
A survey of 800 businesses by Bankwest shows that 80% of respondents face more challenges than last year, with 72% citing the economy as the major bugbear.
More than half of those polled say that they are finding it harder to retain customers compared with 2010, with 65% struggling to attract new customers.
Nearly four in 10 businesses admit that it is tougher to keep hold of staff compared to last year, with 42% claiming that it is more difficult to attract talent.
Almost half of respondents say that current interest rates are a challenge, while more than a third feel hampered by the strength of the Australian dollar.
However, the survey did throw up some more encouraging results, with 44% of small businesses saying that they have enchased their online presence over the past year, while 41% of those quizzed convinced that their company has more opportunities than a year ago.
Ian Corfield, CEO of Bankwest Business, says: “We are starting to see a shift in the concerns of SMEs across Australia.”
“No longer are small businesses as preoccupied with their day-to-day financial issues but instead their attention is shifting to macro-economic matters like the state of the economy and the current exchange rate.”
“It can be difficult for SMEs to stay on top of changing consumer demands and progresses in technology can help small business owners to become increasingly mobile and also expand their customer base.”
“However, developments in technology can also increase consumer expectations and it is not always easy for SMEs to stay ahead of the game.”
“While SMEs have told us that they are facing more challenges compared to a year ago, the fact that almost half also see more opportunities indicates that while the current environment is tougher, it also presents a number of prospects for small business.”