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Export industry defies challenging environment
The slowdown in the export industry is continuing. This is highlighted by both the Credit Suisse Export Barometer and the survey on export sentiment carried out by Switzerland Global Enterprise. Due to the numerous global challenges, SMEs are focusing on securing what they have already achieved, with penetration of additional markets receding into the background. The biggest concerns for companies are energy and commodity prices, currency risks, and disruptions to value creation chains.
The current level of export sentiment as ascertained by Switzerland Global Enterprise in its semiannual survey stands at 60.5 points, still well above the growth threshold of 50 points. By contrast, the Credit Suisse Export Barometer paints a gloomier picture and indicates min-imal growth. There is no doubt that the Swiss export economy is slowing further in the face of persistent global challenges. Companies are currently very worried about energy and commodity prices, currency risks, and inflation. As before, disruptions to value chains and a shortage of skilled labor are further concerns for exporters.
But despite all the negatives, SMEs remain in surprisingly good shape and are looking to the future with cautious optimism: 53% of companies expect export growth in 2023, while 29% anticipate stagnation, and just 18% are resigned to a decline in exports. At the same time, 91% of surveyed companies stated that they would be maintaining or even expanding headcount over the coming twelve months. Only 9% indicated that they would have to reduce their workforce.
The reasons for this relatively positive sentiment are the strong resilience of SMEs and their ability to adapt, as well as the relatively low level of inflation in Switzerland. However, global challenges have created considerable uncertainty, which is why companies are now focusing on securing what they have already achieved: 26% of all companies stated that they were not looking to expand into any new markets in 2023. Instead, their focus is on traditional sales markets such as Europe and the US.
Andreas Gerber, Head of Corporate Clients Switzerland at Credit Suisse, commented as follows: “The consequences of ongoing global crises are leading to a further slowdown in the export economy. Nonetheless, Swiss SMEs are in good shape. Evidence of this is, among other things, the low level of unemployment right now, with no major change expected in the near future. As things stand, 9 out of 10 companies are expecting to maintain or even ex-pand their workforces over the coming months. The reason for this is that well-managed companies respond to challenges swiftly and appropriately. For example, the great majority of SMEs have long since developed strategies for mitigating the risks of disrupted value chains. Thanks to the resilience and entrepreneurial skill of our SMEs, we can look to the future with cautious optimism even in the current situation.”
Alberto Silini, Head of Consulting at Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), added the following: “The numerous global challenges are weighing on internationally active SMEs. The biggest concerns for them right now are energy and commodity prices, currency risks, and disruptions to value creation chains. But despite this difficult situation, more than half of export companies are expecting to grow this year, as is shown by Switzerland Global Enterprise’s survey on export sentiment. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the environment is uncertain, and almost a quarter of companies will not be looking to open up new markets in 2023. Instead, they will be concentrating on proven sales destinations such as Europe and the US. For other companies, South America, the Gulf region, and the ASEAN states are the new markets of the moment.”
Further information on the SME export outlook for the first semester of 2023 can be downloaded at www.s-ge.com/export-outlook.
Video statements on current export sentiment by Meret Mügeli, Economist at Credit Suisse, and Alberto Silini, Head of Consulting at Switzerland Global Enterprise, can be found here.
The SME Export Outlook for the second semester of 2023 will be published on June 27, 2023.