Crisis of confidence for SME sector
27 Mar 2018
- 41% of NZ’s business operators believe economy will decline
in the coming year
- Underlying performance and revenue expectations remain strong
Confidence in the economy has fallen to its lowest level in three years amongst New Zealand’s small-to-medium sized enterprises, which makes up more than 500,000 businesses, according to the latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of more than 1,000 business operators around the country.
Expectations for the economy fell from an overall net positive 21 percent in the March 2017 Monitor, to a net negative 14 percent in the latest survey. This is despite businesses continuing to report strong levels of revenue growth over the last 12 months and positive earnings expectations for the coming year.
Businesses in the primary sector are most likely to predict the
economy to decline, with over half of the operators in the industry
(52 percent) pessimistic about the coming year. Manufacturing and
wholesale business operators are also concerned about a fall-off in
the economy, with 41 percent expecting a decline. Construction and
trades business operators are only slightly more optimistic, with 38
percent expecting the economy to decline while 26 percent predict it
As the investment in the city’s rebuild tapers off,
Christchurch-based business operators are the most pessimistic about
economic conditions this year with 48 percent expecting to see the
economy decline, followed by Auckland (43 percent expecting a decline)
and business operators outside the main centres (38 percent).
Wellington business operators are finely balanced, with 36 percent
expecting conditions to decline and 35 percent predicting an
improvement in the economy.
Underlying performance strong
Despite expressing a significant level of concern over the future of
the economy, the performance of New Zealand’s SME businesses remains
largely unchanged from the strength it showed in the last year.
Thirty six percent of businesses reported an improvement in revenue
in the last 12 months, the same level as 2017 and only a slight
decline from the highest level recorded in the Monitor survey in 2016
(37 percent). A fifth (20 percent) reported a fall in revenue levels
in the last 12 months.
Most business operators are also forecasting their revenue will
improve or remain at current levels over the next 12 months, with 38
percent expecting revenue to rise (the same proportion as in 2017) and
41 percent predicting their income will remain the same.
MYOB General Manager Carolyn Luey says while businesses are right to
express some caution, as the international situation in particular is
increasingly uncertain, there’s a risk that the growing levels of
pessimism could affect the economy.
“The fundamentals of the SME economy at present are strong –
businesses in general are doing very well, and most expect that
performance to continue over the next 12 months,” says Carolyn
“While there are some areas to watch – such as the decline in
manufacturing sector earnings and lower levels of revenue growth for
the primary sector – the overall sector is in good shape.”
Sales, jobs and wages all up
Ms Luey says – despite the lack of confidence in the economy – there
are other strong signals that business will improve over the coming
“Most of the growth signals we look for, such as increased work in
the pipeline, new jobs and wage growth are present in this survey –
they are just not reflected in the overall sentiment.”
A third of businesses have more work in the pipeline in the coming
quarter, and a further 48% are reporting consistent levels of sales or
orders for the next three months. Just 16% are expecting activity to
reduce in the coming quarter.
Among the sectors, the construction and trades industry (44
percent), the retail and hospitality sector (44 percent) and the
wholesale and manufacturing industry (41 percent) – despite
predictions of falling revenues in the industry – are all expecting a
Employment growth will remain steady, with 11 percent of businesses
planning to increase the number of staff in their business. With
continuing demand for housing, the strongest employment growth will be
in the construction and trades sector, with 20 percent of business
operators planning to increase the size of their workforce.
Just under a quarter (24 percent) of operators surveyed are planning
an increase in wages and salaries. Pay increases are most likely in
the manufacturing and wholesale industry (41 percent) and the retail
and hospitality trade (36 percent).
Uncertainty weighing on confidence
Carolyn Luey says there are a wide range of considerations
contributing to the large fall in confidence amongst SME
“The level of uncertainty around the policies and direction of the
new Government has been well canvassed in recent surveys,” says Ms
Luey. “But other concerns, such as a looming international trade war,
global instability and, closer to home, the range of new taxes being
mooted by the tax working group – all of which were covered during the
survey period – are likely to be factoring into how well business
operators believe the New Zealand economy will perform.”
“Overall though, we hope business operators can take heart from the
strength of their own performance, and that of their peers, and
recognise that there are a great many positives to take forward into
For further comment or other information please contact:
Conor Roberts, MYOB NZ Communications and Public Affairs
M: 021 124 6004 / E: email@example.com
Gerard Blank, The Agency Communications Limited Director
P: 03 341 5841 / M: 0275 243 629 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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About the MYOB Business Monitor
The MYOB Business Monitor is a national survey of 1,000+ New Zealand small and medium business owners and managers, from sole traders to mid-sized companies, representing the major industry sectors. It has run since 2009, commissioned to independent market research firm Colmar Brunton. This most recent survey ran in February/March 2018. The Monitor researches business performance and attitudes in areas such as profitability, cash flow, pipeline, technology usage and the government. The weighting of respondents by both geographical location and sector is based on overall market proportions as established by Statistics New Zealand and is drawn from an independent survey group, which includes both MYOB clients and non-clients.