A survey conducted by Hardware Association Ireland (HAI ) among its retail members indicates that overall business activity in hardware stores in Connacht is eight per cent lower than their counterparts in Dublin and the rest of Leinster.
Commenting on the survey, HAI chief executive Jim Copeland said: “Among our 51 retail members in Connacht, many firms are family-owned businesses who make a valuable contribution to the local economy. But the continuous erosion of consumer spend, the cost of pay parking, rising business rates and poor services such as lack of access to broadband, are compounding a situation that is already at breaking point.”
He continued: “The trading environment in the hardware sector has been extremely challenging over the past few years. While we share similar difficulties with other retail sectors, the independent hardware sector, who collectively are substantial employers throughout Connacht, has been particularly hard hit by the continuing dramatic downturn in the building/construction industry.”
The survey also indicates a continued pessimism within the sector, with 80 per cent of respondents claiming to be ‘very concerned or worried’ about the current business environment and 67 per cent expressing the same level of concern about their own business prospects over the next 12 months.
According to respondents the ‘critical’ issues facing the hardware sector are keeping sales/business coming in (83 per cent ); maintaining costs at a minimum (80 per cent ); lack of disposal income among shoppers (73 per cent ); maintaining cash flow (58 per cent ) and stock levels (51 per cent ), as well as concerns over the current level of economic growth in the country (51 per cent ).
The survey also revealed that one in five hardware retailers applied to lending institutions for funding over the last 12 months of which 75 per cent were successful. Short-term finance dominated their rationale for application with funding for working capital (40 per cent ), short-term loan (34 per cent ), and overdraft (34 per cent ) topping the list.
Otherwise hard pressed businesses are taking a more pragmatic approach, opting for measures such as salary freezes (59 per cent ), maintaining prices at past levels or lowering them (84 per cent ), and not replacing staff after they have left (46 per cent ).
HAI represents more than 400 firms to Government, regulatory agencies, and the media with one consolidated voice, and provides a non-biased and reliable source of industry information. From family run businesses to publicly quoted companies, members operate some 500 outlets, providing careers for more than 15,000 people across Ireland. HAI also provides training, education, advisory services, and a comprehensive calendar of events to members allowing them to improve their business and services.
The HAI members’ survey was conducted among 169 retail members of Hardware Association Ireland in June 2013 by B&A.