Irish SMEs continue to fight despite major concerns

Despite support from local communities, one in five Irish SMEs fear that their future viability is at risk due to COVID-19, according to new research.

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) of Irish SMEs believe that their future viability is at risk due to the commercial impact of COVID-19, according to new research commissioned by Visa.

Despite these concerns, Irish SMEs have seen a wave of support from the public, with 70 per cent (pc) of companies surveyed for the Visa Back to Business study highlighting that their local community has rallied behind their business.

Fundamental shift

With the majority of business across the country forced to close their doors during the lockdown period, the study looks at the dramatic shift to digital commerce in response to the pandemic, driven largely by changing consumer expectations for a safe and contactless payment moment.

Since the lockdown has been lifted, there has been a fundamental shift in Ireland’s retail landscape with almost seven out of 10 (68pc) shoppers admitting to using cashless, opting instead for digital payment methods.

Contactless payments have surged in popularity, with more Irish shoppers (70pc) using contactless more often in light of COVID-19 compared to any other market surveyed. The research also found that 57pc of Irish shoppers would be likely to switch stores so they can tap to pay for goods and services. 

“In the face of the extraordinary challenges caused by COVID-19, many Irish SMEs have shown entrepreneurial spirit, finding new ways to keep serving consumers”

While COVID-19 brought unprecedented challenges to businesses, many small businesses were quick to adapt to the emerging trends, with one-third of Irish SMEs revealing that they are accepting less cash or have stopped accepting cash altogether.

Approximately a quarter (24pc) of SMEs surveyed sold products or services online for the first time as a result of COVID-19, with 17pc now offering home delivery to customers as companies adopted new practices to maintain business.

“In the face of the extraordinary challenges caused by COVID-19, many Irish SMEs have shown entrepreneurial spirit, finding new ways to keep serving consumers,” said Philip Konopik, Ireland Country Manager at Visa.

“Nevertheless, as the economy re-opens, many will need our help to recover and operate in a new economic environment. That’s why Visa is working with partners to offer small firms across Ireland the tools, advice and expertise so they can adapt their business for the new retail landscape and take advantage of ecommerce and digital payments. 

We’re also proud to support the national Champion Green initiative and are calling on consumers to support their local businesses both off and online because, now more than ever, where you shop matters. Sign the pledge on ChampionGreen.ie to show that you are supporting local and helping the economy bounce back,” he concluded.

Last month, Visa announced a global campaign to digitally enable 50 million small businesses in the recovery process with eight million of those to be in Europe. For more information, please visit https://www.visa.ie/promotions/where-you-shop-matters/business.html.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 6 August, 2020