Eighty-five percent of businesses across the island of Ireland still are not growing, according to the results of the latest Business Monitor for Q1 2012 released by InterTradeIreland.
It found that the protracted downturn continues to have a significant adverse impact on businesses in Ireland, where just over 13pc of those surveyed are either growing or expanding.
This impact appears to be greater in Ireland than for their counterparts in Northern Ireland where just over a fifth (21pc) of businesses report that they are growing.
The survey also highlights that overall sales performance figures remain negative on balance this quarter with 22pc of businesses reporting an increase in sales but 37pc seeing a decline, resulting in a net balance of -15pc.
These figures show a slight improvement on the last quarter when the respective figures for sales increases stood at 18pc and decreases stood at 41pc.
Businesses are very clear about the underlying reasons for the continued strain that they are feeling. Lack of demand for their products or services is cited by almost two-thirds of businesses and rising costs by around four-fifths.
Aidan Gough, director of strategy and policy for InterTradeIreland, said: “The fact that after three years still only 15pc of businesses are in growth mode shows the protracted nature of the current situation. Businesses, however, are adapting to the new economic reality and are actively reducing internal costs and pricing their products and services more keenly.
“Demand, or lack of it, still remains a key issue for businesses. One sign of how businesses are addressing the issue of demand is the extent to which they are looking for new markets.
“Our research shows 25pc of those companies currently trading cross-border have been encouraged by this experience to explore further opportunities to export to other markets. Half of these existing exporting companies are now looking at the EU markets for new sales. InterTradeIreland is dealing with demand problems by taking more companies onto the first rung of the exporting ladder and giving them the confidence to seek out new opportunities across the island.”