Survival rates for NI businesses revealed - showing how far the odds are stacked against budding entrepreneurs

Newly-released figures show that only about 44% of new Northern Irish business survive their first five years – with 19% shutting down within one year.

By Adam Kula
Friday, 28th January 2022, 5:00 am
Shutters down at Dawson’s Music, Belfast – the retailer’s roots date back overa century, but it has flitted in and out of administration in recent years
Shutters down at Dawson’s Music, Belfast – the retailer’s roots date back overa century, but it has flitted in and out of administration in recent years

But depressing though this may seem for prospective entrepreneurs, the Province actually fares better than any other region of the UK.

In both England and Wales the proportion of businesses still alive after five years was 40%; in Scotland it was just 39%.

The figures on business survival were published yesterday by the NI Statistics and Research Agency.

They relate to “business births” and “business deaths” – meaning the number of new firms registered each year, and the number of existing firms removed from the register each year.

Because the stats officials have to track businesses over five years, this latest data relates to firms which opened their doors in 2015.

And crunching the numbers further reveals some other eye-opening facts.

For example, it appears that the lockdowns of 2020 did not massively impact either the number of new businesses which came into being, or the number which folded.

The numbers which follow show that 2020 really wasn’t an especially bad 12 months in the grand scheme of things:

NI business births:

~ 2016: 5,935

~ 2017: 6,850

~ 2018: 5,900

~ 2019: 6,625

~ 2020: 6,375

Meanwhile these are the number of NI business deaths:

~ 2016: 4,080

~ 2017: 4,470

~ 2018: 4,380

~ 2019: 5,385

~ 2020: 4,900

Two types of business which have been reported as being especially at risk during the pandemic – hospitality and retail – appear not to fared especially badly.

There were 425 NI food and accommodation firms which closed down in 2020, but in 2019 – before the pandemic – there had been 515 closures.

As for retailers, 2020 saw 635 close – but that is little different to 2019, when there were 620 such closures.

Most of the 4,900 businesses which “died” in 2020 were in Belfast (965) with Newry Mourne and Down being the second most hard-hit area (815).

Mid and East Antrim saw the fewest business closures in 2020 (275) followed by Antrim and Newtownabbey (290).

However, businesses may well have staggered through 2020 only to collapse in 2021 – and that won’t be known until fresh figures come out in another 12 months.

Meanwhile, firms across the British Isles are facing a renewed squeeze in the form of rising gas costs at present.

NISRA’s figures came just as Begbies Traynor – a big firm specialising in business ‘rescues’ – released details about the number of companies with County Court Judgements against them valued at £5,000 or more.

In the last quarter of 2020 in Northern Ireland, there were 9,822 such firms.

But by the last quarter of 2021, this had dipped by 18%, to 8,683.

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