SME confidence takes a nosedive as pandemic rages on

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Confidence among Australian SMEs has plummeted as the latest series of lockdowns and restrictions have hit them hard just as they were looking at a new start.

According to the latest COVID-19 SME Tracker, conducted by business market research firm ACA Research in partnership with Ovation which tracks the impact of COVID-19 across more than 400 small and medium enterprises each month, more than 50 per cent of SMEs reported a decline in revenue, with NSW the hardest hit.

The negative picture doesn’t change when looking to the future, with 55 per cent of respondents expecting the economy to be weaker over the next three months. The outlook in relation to the global economy is not much better with 43 per cent expecting a negative outlook up to and including the Christmas season.

Despite new Government support measures, the lockdowns are evidently biting only 30 per cent of SMEs are satisfied with the Federal Government’s handling of the pandemic, a steep fall from 53 per cent In June. And things are bleak on the job front, too, with the number of SMEs hiring for new roles dropping to 25 per cent, a decrease of seven per cent on the previous reporting period.

On a more positive note, SME leaders are seen to be spearheading the vaccination efforts across the country with 92 per cent intending to get vaccinated, an increase from 79 per cent in June.

“In summary, expanded lockdowns and restrictions have accelerated the negative impact on key financial indicators and sentiment,” ACA Research, Managing Director, James Organ said.

“This trend is likely to continue until vaccination targets are met and restrictions eased. With one-quarter of SMEs now shuttered (some permanently) it is looking increasingly likely that employment and capital expenditure will decline sharply during the next three months.”