Small businesses feel the pinch of a slow Christmas

Australian small businesses are feeling the pinch of a slow Christmas retail period and, with the threat of bigger and online businesses entering the market, business confidence is down.

The latest MYOB SME Snapshot survey reveals that the majority (77 per cent) of small-business owners are predicting they will see no growth in business during the Christmas period, and 18 per cent expect it to be quieter than last year. When asked about the main challenges SMEs face going into 2018, maintaining work life balance was the biggest struggle across the board  at 45 per cent.

“With the launch of a number of overseas retail outlets this year, our Aussie business owners are feeling apprehensive in the lead up to Christmas. Businesses are telling us they’re concerned about the impact this will have on customer footfall and revenue, especially given the wider global environment businesses are now playing in,” said Tim Reed, CEO of MYOB.

“The emphasis small-business owners placed on the challenge of maintaining work life balance suggests they are expecting to spend more time on their business, potentially to save costs on hiring or rostering more help. This comes as a concern to small-business owners’ mental health as, for many business owners, this time of year is often reserved for some down time, perhaps a break from work and time spent with friends and family,” Reed added.

On the positive side, the survey revealed that small-business owners are keen to change this with work life balance coming up as the top new year’s resolution with 27 per cent stating they wanted to actively improve in this area. And although managing cashflow (39 per cent) and operating costs (37 per cent) were nominated as key challenges, only 12 per cent of businesses said that managing cashflow more effectively was one of their focuses in the new year.

The research noted room for improvement for SMEs and steps to take to better prepare for the change in business during the Christmas period as it was revealed that only 37 per cent started planning around two months out, while a third of businesses did not plan for Christmas at all.

It also suggested that business owners can look to how technology can support their operations to free them up to focus on customers and business growth. While over a quarter (26 per cent) of operators found it difficult to manage costs and cashflow, a similar number (28 per cent) agreed that adopting new technology could help them manage their business finances better. SMEs that have been able to manage their cashflow effectively (52 per cent) allowed them to focus on innovating through new products or services  and helped promote their business through social media.

“Our local retailers need to play to their strengths, and ensure they’re adequately prepared and continue to focus on being a strong and vibrant part of their community, and ensuring they provide unique experiences for their customers. This kind of innovation will ensure they continue to have strong presence both during Christmas and into the new year,” Reed concluded.

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