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The latest results show a slight fall in the proportion of firms expecting sales to increase in the year ahead. Whilst confidence remains
strong in the face of difficult economic circumstances, the risks remain high rising costs, decreased sales, and supply chain issues remain.
Cost risks have dropped downwards in this survey, a major problem for 33% of firms, up from 34% previously after a period of fairly static
but elevated levels. There has been a slight fall in the proportion of firms stating they have reserves to last over 6 months, from 84% last
month to 82% of survey respondents. This still remains one of the strongest positions in the last 2 years, however micro-size firms and
those in leisure related industries are reporting the most risk. Cashflow problems remain, affecting 14% of businesses as a serious risk. A
similar proportion of firms are recruiting as last month 23% (vs 29% previously), and 37% of firms report workforce skill gaps which have
increased from last month.

The GC Business Confidence Index. a ranking of how confident businesses are on their growth prospects for the year ahead, currently
stands at 7.4 out of 10, similar as last month. However, business confidence varies between sector.

Sales and profits. 24% (vs 20% previously) of firms reported that they experienced an increase in sales in the last month, and 61%
expect profits to increase (vs 58%). Just 2% (vs 3%)expect profits to decrease.

Main impacts from the current situation and financial resilience
➢ Impacts. The main three impacts facing firms are rising costs (33% vs 34% previously), decreased sales (14% vs 15%), and minor supply chain issues (15% vs 14%). The education and retail and wholesale reported most likely decreased sales.

Cash reserves. 82% (vs 84%) of firms report that they have cash reserves to last over 6 months. 90% of SME’s with 50-249
employees have cash reserves to last over 6 months, with the majority in Manufacturing, Health social care and retail & wholesale.

Cashflow. 14% (vs 10%) of firms said they had cashflow problems. Micro-size firms (<10 employees) were twice as more likely to report cashflow issues this month compared to SMEs (10-49 FTEs). By sector, hospitality, tourism, and retail wholesale were more likely to report cashflow problems than other sectors in the survey.

Employment and skills
Recruitment. 26% (vs 29% previously) of firms are currently recruiting new staff, and 17% (vs 18%) said they had difficulties recruiting. The main occupational groups recruiting arefor customer facing roles (38%vs 40%), managerial (14%vs 16%), and others not listed (10%vs 10%).

Workforce skill gaps. 50% (vs 52%) of firms said that their workforceskills are only ‘partly’ at the level to meet business plan objectives. The main technical skill gaps identified are:specialist skills (33%), specialist IT skills (6%), knowledge of products services (11%). The main people and personal skill gaps identified are: sales skills (16%), time management (12%), and motivating staff (11%).

Workforce development. 38% (vs 42%) of firms said they are looking to increase investment in workforce development in the next 12 months, 55% (vs 50%) said they thought investment levels would remain the same, and 6% (vs 7%) were unsure.

Redundancy risk. Just 1% (vs 2%) of firms said they were in the process of considering making redundancies

Other challenges and future support needs
The main current challenges: Main sources of innovation. The top 3 sources of innovation within firms were 40% said staff within their own business, 23% said clients / customers; and 8% said suppliers of equipment and/or services

Future support needs. Looking to the year ahead, the main areas identified are workforce development (28% vs 44%), business planning (48% vs 71%), sales & marketing (38% vs 55%), innovation (30% vs 11%), and financial advice (25% vs 22%).

Environmental impact. 35%(vs 66%) are looking for extra support to manage their environmental impact.