South Australian business survey indicates resilience in December 2020

RESILIENT: Business confidence throughout South Australia continues despite losses associated with November lockdown. Photo: Shutterstock
RESILIENT: Business confidence throughout South Australia continues despite losses associated with November lockdown. Photo: Shutterstock

Collectively, South Australian business remains resilient despite pre-Christmas losses, is the key message to come from an independent business survey released today.

The Business SA-William Buck Survey of Business Expectations highlights business confidence climbing 13 points to 108.3 points for the December 2020 quarter.

While the survey does not provide breakdown figures for regions, the latest points equate to the state's quarter index sitting 20 per cent above the 10-year average.

Pleasingly, business conditions also lifted from 20.5 points to 105.3 for the December period to reach another two-year high, despite the three-day COVID lockdown in November.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese said confidence in the state continues to build despite ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19.

"To record a 13-point jump in confidence in a quarter marred by a hard lockdown and increased restrictions on businesses for much of December, these results are a testament to the resilience of SA business owners," Mr Haese said.

However, while the latest quarter looks rosier on paper, he shared that SA businesses still remain "materially impacted" by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

These impacts have led to 15 per cent of respondents reporting their turnover remains down by more than 50 per cent.

To record a 13-point jump in confidence in a quarter marred by a hard lockdown and increased restrictions on businesses for much of December, these results are a testament to the resilience of SA business owners.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese

Figures also reflect a 68 per cent of SA businesses who agreed the wage subsidy scheme should continue past its 28 March cut-off date for industries most impacted by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, such as those relying on international tourism and events.

The survey's findings showed 'a high level of general confidence masks the challenges faced by specific sectors of the region, particularly those most exposed to ongoing social distancing restrictions and border closures'.

From a sales perspective, an emerging trend in the December quarter also highlighted that COVID-19 is holding back some industries while others continue to thrive.

Lastly, survey results found 35 per cent of business owners found it harder to attract labour in the December period, with 58 per cent blaming lack of incentive due to increased JobSeeker payment for finding workers.

In response, Business SA encourages the state and federal governments to consider some form of safety net for business owners and their employees whose livelihoods remain under threat.

Yet the business confidence continues with half of all businesses surveyed reported that their revenue had returned to normal or levels higher than a year ago.

This includes 34 per cent who felt their business is operating better since the onset of the pandemic due to improved systems, greater efficiency, and elimination of waste.

SA treasurer Rob Lucas, who welcomed the survey results, said it reflected similar positive sentiment in other independent economic surveys witnessed in recent weeks.

"We recognise the tremendous toll COVID has taken on many employers across the state, and - while some continue to be impacted - we are delighted that significant numbers are not only back on their feet, but are thriving," Mr Lucas said.

The survey results can be viewed here.