1 in 3 exporters saw export sales decline in 2020
57% expect outlook to improve in 2021 and to increase jobs
85% expect Brexit to add up to 10% to cost base
A survey of Enterprise Ireland client companies attending this year’s International Markets Week showed contrasting fortunes for Irish exporters in 2020. While one in three saw their exports decline, some sectors, such as Lifesciences and Digital, saw export sales grow by 30%.
Enterprise Ireland statistics show that export contracts signed by supported clients also fell 10% between January – September this year, compared to the same period last year.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, and the approaching Brexit deadline, many Irish exporters remain resilient and optimistic. According to the survey results:
57% expect to grow their exports in 2021
83% intend to hire new staff in 2021 and
More than eight in ten exporting companies are either confident or very confident about the international trading environment in 2021.
International Markets Week is Ireland’s largest exporter event and will see more than 700 companies meeting 140 market advisors from 40 overseas offices in 2,000 individual virtual one-on-one meetings to plan their Covid-19, Brexit and market diversification strategies. Travel restrictions and the curtailment of major trade events in many markets present challenges to exporters to find new customers and to stay in touch with existing clients. Having direct access to experts in the markets will help Irish businesses find new ways of establishing and protecting business relationships.
Speaking at the official launch of International Markets Week, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, TD, said: “Now more than ever, it is important to assist Irish companies increase their presence in existing markets and expand into new ones. The exporting sector will continue to be a strong engine for growth and jobs in the Irish economy as we rebuild after the pandemic. I’m heartened to see that over half of companies expect to grow their exports next year and that 83% expect to hire new staff. This is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Irish business owners.
“Irish business is facing two major challenges – to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and mitigate any disruption to trade from the impending Brexit deadline. The Government has provided targeted grants and advisory services to address both these vital issues through our agencies, including Enterprise Ireland and I would urge every exporting company to seek advice and support now.”
Now more than ever, it is important to assist Irish companies increase their presence in existing markets and expand into new ones.
– Damien English
The survey also reveals how companies responded to Covid-19 and the necessary public health restrictions in place. During 2020 the main areas of focus and innovation were:
customer engagement and
Recognising the threat posed by Brexit, in terms of future investment priorities companies reported their priorities as:
innovation and research and
The survey also revealed that 85% of companies were expecting to see an increase of up to 10% in their cost base as a result of Brexit, although the majority of these companies expected the increase to be 5% or less.
According to Enterprise Ireland CEO, Julie Sinnamon: “Irish exporters came into 2019 from a position of strength recording exports of more than €25bn in 2019. However, 2020 has proven to be very challenging so far. While our clients have largely succeeded in retaining customers across the world, we know that customer contracts have declined by 10%, compared to last year.
“This year, International Markets Week, which is the largest virtual exporter event of the year, will provide Irish exporters with the opportunity to have virtual one-to-one meetings with our teams in Ireland and across the world to develop their strategies to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19, to get ready for Brexit and to find new customers in new international markets.
“Running this online event is an example of how Enterprise Ireland is working with our clients to utilise digital technology to maintain customer relationships across the globe and establish new client contacts. How Irish business operates globally has changed significantly this year and Enterprise Ireland is changing too.
“My message to exporters is, that if they haven’t done so already, to apply for Enterprise Ireland funding to implement their recovery strategies from Covid-19, and to get ready for January 1st, when customs procedures will change fundamentally and there will be an impact on their cost base. Now is the time to act and to avail of the supports from Enterprise Ireland, and across Government, to protect and grow their businesses, and to adapt their products and services for customers, as we enter a new world”.