The report for the third quarter (Q3) of 2018, shows that trade has remained resilient over the past quarter with 41% of companies continuing to grow.
Brexit continues to be a significant issue, particularly for exporters as 42% report it has already had a negative impact on sales and 38% state that it has impacted negatively on investment decision making within their organisation.
There have also been additional negative impacts on supply chains and logistics for more than a quarter of exporters to date.
Despite concerns around Brexit the agency says it highlights once again the higher growth performance of exporters and cross-border traders.
Don’t hold off on home heating oil in hopes of price drops, expert urges Northern Ireland consumers
Blueprints unveiled for enormous new hotel right next to Belfast’s Titanic centre in the city’s old shipyard district bringing over 600 construction jobs
Planning system in Northern Ireland to go down for three weeks as computer crisis looms
Postal workers set to go on strike across Northern Ireland next month
NI Builders shortlisted for Excellence Awards
Almost half of all firms that trade across the border are growing, with 30% of these companies experiencing a rapid growth in sales, compared to just 18% that do not export.
“The figures from our latest Business Monitor are supported by InterTradeIreland’s recent research1 which shows that SMEs that export, including cross-border traders, have significantly better outcomes across a range of key indicators including turnover, employment and productivity,” said director of strategy and policy Aidan Gough.
“Goods firms exporting across the border have 9% higher levels of productivity than firms that don’t export beyond their local market, moreover turnover is almost 100% higher and employment is almost doubled.
“Expanding participation in cross-border trading makes an important contribution to the individual performance of the firm and to the wider economy.”
In the context of this positive sales backdrop, the report says businesses face a number of challenges.
The primary one is the rising costs of overheads, with 54% of SMEs saying it is their biggest issue.
Certain sectors are feeling the impact of skills shortages more acutely than others.
While more than 1 in 5 (26%) of firms are finding difficulty recruiting, this rises to 36% for large businesses and 29% and 31% in the construction and professional services sectors respectively and 41% of larger firms (50+ staff) say there are also shortages within their sector.