Not a merry time for SME owners: 77% predicting no business growth for Christmas

Elizabeth Barry 18 December 2017 NEWS

retail christmas

1 in 5 think that it will be even quieter than last year.

Small business owners are expecting a slow Christmas period for 2017, new research from MYOB has found. The MYOB SME Snapshot saw 77% of small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners predict no growth in business over Christmas – a worrying statistic, considering as this is the time of year many businesses make a large chunk of their annual revenue.

More worryingly, one in five (18%) expects this Christmas period to be quieter than in 2016. CEO of MYOB Tim Reed puts the findings down to the changing Australian retail landscape.

“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," he said.

"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.”

The launch of Amazon in Australia at the beginning of this month certainly did have an effect on Australian businesses. Some businesses have decided to sell on the platform, investing significantly in stock and delivery functions and even changing their business models in the process, but others are continuing on with their own business plans.

The effect of Amazon remains to be seen only a few weeks in, but the MYOB survey shows that there are factors outside of competition affecting SME's ability to grow.

A lack of forward planning was found to be a problem for SME owners in the lead-up to Christmas; 37% of those surveyed said they only started planning for Christmas two months out while one-third did not plan at all.

However, this may come down to a huge challenge facing most small businesses: a lack of time.

When asked about the main challenges they will face heading into 2018, maintaining a work-life balance was the biggest struggle for 45% of SME owners. More than a quarter (27%) said they wanted to actively improve in this area.

“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," said Reed.

"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 downtime, perhaps a break from work and time spent with friends and family.”

Managing cash flow (39%) and operating costs (37%) were also high on the list of challenges for SME owners, but only 12% wanted to focus on improving this in the new year.

Reed's advice to retailers is to "play to your strengths".

“Our local retailers need to ... 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 a strong presence both during Christmas and into the new year."

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