This morning, GRTU published the results of it's annual Business Performance Survey. The study is conducted online and on the phone by GRTU's own team. This year, the number of respondents was 250 and these included many different types of businesses. The locations of the respondents are from across the Maltese Islands and include retail establishments that are located in shopping centers. The main aim of the study is to compare business performance in 2018 as compared to 2017.
The survey results show clearly that overall, 2018 was a better year for business than 2017. The increase in turnover is coupled with a lesser although significant increase in profits it was reported.
The results show that clearly, the most significant challenge that businesses are facing is employee shortage. Data shows that in spite of this, staff turnover is not overly significant. Businesses report that they are having to raise the wages of their employees so that they can reduce staff turnover.
Respondents that reported an increase in turnover where asked to what they attributed this change. The replies were varied with introducing new products and services on top followed by the increase in the population. The latter is an element which was repeatedly mentioned in the survey results. Quite a high number of businesses claimed that the increase was also due to better consumer spending power. On the other hand, those that reported a reduction in their turnover attributed this mostly to an increase in competition both from local companies and foreign ones. Illicit trading mostly from Italy was also a significant factor as was online shopping. Lack of human resources as well as traffic and parking problems where also selected as reasons for a decline in sales.
Respondents where also asked if they are selling online and 30% reported that they sell appoximately 5 to 10% of their total turnover online. This is an increase from 2017 when only around 20% claimed to be selling on line. A significant number, this year, also reported that they are in the process of setting up shop online in the near future. Businesses that are not selling online were asked to pin point reasons. The largest proportion claimed that their products cannot be sold online or that their clients do not buy online. Others claimed that it is too time consuming to keep an eCommerce site updated and that they are too busy anyway.
Turnover during the Christmas festivites was reported to be good with Black Friday featuring as one of the top days. Black Friday sales were not reported to have a significant effect on the turnover of the whole year.
Finally respondents were asked their expectation for 2019 and 41% are expecting 2019 to be a better year for business and a significant number stated that they expect to enlarge their business in 2019.
Although the results show clearly that business was better in 2018 then in 2017, undoubtedly, Maltese Business are facing challenges and at the top of the list is employee shortage. Businesses are having to shelve new projects because finding employees has become such a challenge. To further aggravate the situation businesses are reporting that when they are using resources to bring foreign employees, they are finding it very difficult to open Bank accounts and many cannot afford lodging in any case. Another major challenge is the traffic situation and parking. Deliveries and logistics have become much more expensive due to higher wages to retain employees and the much longer time that each task is taking to complete due to the constant traffic congestion which has now become daily and at most times.
Many businesses rightly complain about Italians coming to Malta selling goods without VAT and other charges resulting in unfair trading. They also mention that it is unfair that foreigners can set businesses in Malta and pay much less taxes then their Maltese counterparts. Unfair practices are reported to being carried out regularly through online channels including social media as well and that they are not being controlled in any way.