Small businesses optimistic about post-lockdown growth

  • By Zilla Efrat

Small business leaders are feeling confident about the future with 85 per cent reporting they believe the economy will quickly return to growth as restrictions ease, according to new research from Westpac.

The Westpac survey of 1,000 small to medium business leaders across Australia, confirms that business owners are optimistic about the outlook, with seven in 10 expecting an increase in sales over the next 12 months.

“Small businesses have been through an incredibly tough time and while challenges remain, it’s extremely encouraging to see so many business leaders feeling optimistic about the future as Australia prepares to reopen and recover,” says Chris de Bruin, Westpac chief executive, consumer and business banking.

“To help accelerate the recovery our research showed small business owners want Australians to shop local. More than a third of business owners called this out as one of the best ways to help them recover from the impacts of COVID-19. We also know there has been an increase in consumers buying Australian made goods and services and we hope this trend continues to help aid the recovery.”

COVID-19 restrictions topped the list of the biggest challenges facing small business leaders over the next 12 months. Almost half (48 per cent) called this out as their top concern. Next up were fewer customers and a reduction in sales (31 per cent) and supply chain disruptions (28 per cent).

The survey found that 80 per cent of small business leaders have experienced an increase in the cost of doing business over the past 12 months. The cost of goods topped the list with 36 per cent of small businesses reporting an increase in prices, followed by technology (33 per cent) and operating expenses (30 per cent).

Almost half (42 per cent) said the availability of staff has affected their business’ growth with 43 per cent adding that they have also been forced to take on additional work to cover the shortfall.

There was good news for staff with 40 per cent of business owners planning to give them a pay rise within the next 12 months to boost employee retention.

“Despite the challenges small businesses have faced, our research showed most businesses were better prepared for lockdowns this year compared to last,” says de Bruin. "Many small businesses have been able to save money during the pandemic which they will use for business development and investment as the economy improves."