Sensis Business Index December 2015

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1 Sensis Business Index ember 20 A survey of confidence and behaviour of Australian small and medium businesses Released 20 January 2016 OPEN Join the #SensisBiz linkedin.com/company/sensis

2 Table of contents Introduction...2 About the survey... 3 Foreword...4 Executive summary... 5 SMB business cycle analysis...7 SBI snapshot... 8 Small and Medium Business Outlook National Summary...10 SMB confidence in their own business prospects over the next 12 months Confidence by state and territory, sector and size...12 Perceptions of the economy...14 Expectations on key indicators for the next 12 months... Concerns...16 Sales...17 Employment...18 Wages bill...19 Prices...20 Capital expenditure...21 Access to finance Profitability Exports Government Policies...25 Government policies Assessment of Federal Government policies Assessment of state and territory government policies Small and Medium Business Outlook...29 National...30 New South Wales...31 Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory...38 Industry Snapshots...39 Manufacturing...40 Building and Construction...40 Wholesale Trade...41 Retail Trade...41 Transport and Storage Communication, Property and Business Services Finance and Insurance Health and Community Services Cultural, Recreational and Personal Services Hospitality (Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants) Sensis Business Index Small and medium businesses

3 Introduction The Sensis Business Index is a quarterly survey of Australia s small and medium businesses (SMBs) which commenced in 1993 to measure and track: SMB business activity over the previous quarter. Expectations for the current quarter. Overall confidence among SMBs. The Sensis Business Index samples SMBs nationally, enabling broad scrutiny of this market and relevant trends and issues. It examines differences by location, business size and industry. The aim is to reflect the attitudes and behaviour of SMBs, which comprise some 99% of Australian businesses. Results are based on the responses of SMBs surveyed and reported as a net balance, which represents total positive responses minus total negative responses. The Sensis Business Index is an initiative of Sensis as part of its commitment to this vital business sector. As Australia s #1 marketing services company, we re here to engage consumers with Australian businesses. We make this happen through a number of leading brands - Yellow Pages, White Pages, TrueLocal, Whereis and Skip and our expert digital know-how. Our digital expertise is what sets us apart - we give businesses a competitive edge through websites, search engine marketing and optimisation, data, and through our digital advertising agency, Found. 2 Sensis Business Index Introduction

4 About the survey The Sensis Business Index ember 20 covers the period October to ember. It is based on 1,001 telephone interviews conducted with small and medium business proprietors or managers, respectively employing less than 20 and people. This sample is drawn from metropolitan and major nonmetropolitan regions throughout Australia, with targets set for location and industry as shown opposite. Interviewing was conducted from October 19 to November 23, 20. TKW is responsible for sampling and fieldwork and Di Marzio Research for analysis and reporting. Results for each survey are weighted so the sample is reflective of the total SMB population. Prior to 20 the weighting was by selected ANZSIC (industry sector) divisions within the metropolitan and non-metropolitan region of each state and territory as per the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Business Register of June Now the weighting is also by industry, location and business size but based on the most current ABS data contained in the publication Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, Jun 2009 to Jun Some adjustments to this weighting data were also made by Sensis to exclude firms with a turnover of under $50,000 per annum. These are primarily nonoperating and/or non-employing firms. Location of business Total Metro Regional New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory Total 1, Industry sector Manufacturing 105 Building and Construction 5 Wholesale Trade 75 Retail Trade 135 Hospitality (Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants) 57 Transport and Storage 74 Finance and Insurance 66 Communication, Property and Business Services 170 Health and Community Services 79 Cultural, Recreational and Personal Services 85 Total Businesses 1,001 This report covers experiences over the last quarter and expectations for the current quarter. It also covers expectations for the year ahead, which are only asked in the ember quarter survey. Business location Business size OPEN OPEN 65% Metro 35% Regional 90% Small (1-19 employees) 10% Medium ( employees) 3 Sensis Business Index Introduction

5 Foreword After a fairly flat 20, Australian businesses ended the year on a high, posting the highest net confidence score for almost five years. Sensis spoke to 1,000 Australian small and medium businesses for the latest Sensis Business Index survey, with the results showing more than three times as many businesses are now confident, as those who are concerned. Confidence went up everywhere except the Australian Capital Territory, with businesses more optimistic thanks to their specific business strengths, as well as healthy sales. This was the first survey to be taken since Malcolm Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott and it is clear the new Prime Minister has had a positive impact on perceptions of the Government, as well as a halo effect on business confidence. Despite being more confident in their own business prospects, perceptions of the economy continue to be negative with 86 percent of businesses still thinking the economy is either slowing or standing still. Looking ahead, however, there was an 11 point improvement in the expectations for the economy in 12 months time, with the net balance entering positive territory for the first time since ember Not unexpectedly, support for the Federal Government went up six points, with eight percent of businesses pointing to the new Prime Minister as a reason for their positive perceptions. In the last survey Tasmania was the only region where support for the Federal Government went up, but in this survey the reverse was true with all states registering a positive uplift bar one. South Australia is now the most supportive of the Federal Government s policies, with only Western Australia posting a negative net balance. In the ember quarter we also examine year ahead expectations for a range of indicators. With the exception of capital expenditure all of the other indicators are looking positive. These include sales, employment, wages, prices and profitability. In terms of exports there has been little change in this area for the last 12 months and exports haven t grown now for three years. Eleven percent of SMBs are currently exporting and only one percent of those not exporting plan to do so in the year ahead. Obviously this varies greatly across the industry sectors, with manufacturers and wholesalers much more export oriented. Looking at the sectors more generally, confidence again rose in health and community services this quarter for it to retain top spot, while poor sales saw manufacturing become the least confident sector. I d be keen to hear your thoughts on the issues you see impacting on small and medium businesses this year using #SensisBiz. John Allan, Chief Executive Officer, Sensis As we enter 2016 SMBs primary concern remains a lack of work or sales. This is also a growing barrier to businesses taking on new staff. Another concern is finding and retaining suitable staff with the right skills and training. 4 Sensis Business Index Introduction

6 Executive summary Historical trends and overall SMB highlights SMB confidence lifted strongly to reach levels last seen two years ago and the highest score since March Despite difficult business conditions, the economy is expected to improve and performance expectations are fairly positive for the quarter and year ahead. The new Prime Minister appears to have had some impact as views of the Federal Government have improved. The key findings of the Sensis Business Index ember 20 are: SMB confidence jumped twelve points to net +39. This compares with +27 a year ago. Confidence rose in all locations except the ACT. The most confident State is now Tasmania (+64 net), which saw a major improvement of 46 points. Double figure rises were also noted in NSW, Queensland, SA and WA. Opinions of the current state of the economy improved marginally but remain negative. More SMBs still believe the economy is slowing (31%) rather than growing (14%). They are now more hopeful about the health of the economy in 12 months time however (up from -4 to +7). Last quarter, performance indicators were uninspiring with sales and profitability both slightly negative. This quarter, all indicators are expected to remain positive on balance but to a lesser degree than last time. In the ember quarter we also measure key indicator expectations for the year ahead, including for capital expenditure. There is a fairly positive outlook on all indicators except capital expenditure (-6). Sales expectations registered a net balance of +34, while for profitability it is +28 with prices at +32, wages at +25 and employment at +11. Apart from prices, which were four points higher, the expectations for the other four indicators were two to six points lower than a year ago. taking on staff, followed by difficulty in finding suitable staff. Last survey, opinions of the Federal Government had deteriorated but there has now been some improvement. Previously, the proportion of SMBs believing the Federal Government s policies help small business almost equalled those with the opposite view but now the net balance is +7. The key drivers for this change are tax and incentive related but 8% spontaneously mentioned the new Prime Minister as a reason for regarding the Government favourably. Among state and territory governments, only Tasmania (+12), the ACT (+12) and NSW (+11) receive a positive score from SMBs. Perceptions of the ACT Government moved into positive territory (-3 to +12), while the NT Government went from a positive to negative assessment (+10 to -4). The majority of the State Governments remain unpopular, with the SA Government (-32) remaining the most poorly regarded by SMBs. Lack of work or sales remains the most mentioned barrier to 5 Sensis Business Index Introduction

7 Executive summary Metropolitan versus regional Confidence lifted among both metropolitan and regional SMBs. Key findings relating to metropolitan and regional businesses included: Confidence rose points in metropolitan locations and four points among regional SMBs. The gap in confidence between metropolitan and regional SMBs increased from four to points (+44 versus +29). Metropolitan and regional SMBs remain similarly pessimistic overall about the current state of the economy (-17 net in regional compared to -18). However, metropolitan SMBs have stronger expectations for the economy in a year s time (+10 versus +3). There were no major differences between metropolitan and regional SMBs on key performance indicators in the past quarter, with those results generally soft. For the current quarter there are positive expectations for all indicators in both metropolitan and regional locations, with net balances slightly higher in metropolitan areas or equal. Sales (+16 and +) and profitability (+13 and +7) forecasts are relatively modest in both segments. Year ahead expectations are quite solid on all key indicators except capital expenditure in both metropolitan and regional areas, although they are slightly more positive among metropolitan SMBs. The respective sales and profitability forecasts for 2016 are +38 and +28 for sales and +32 and +20 for profitability. Both metropolitan and regional SMBs are more positive towards the Federal Government s policies. Their net balances are the same but a greater increase occurred in regional areas (from -3 to +7) compared to metropolitan areas (from +3 to +7). Industry sector trends Most sectors have found conditions challenging recently but all sectors have a positive outlook for 2016, especially health and community services. The health and community services sector again displayed the highest confidence level (+65) and is well ahead of all other sectors on this measure. Around the average are building and construction; cultural, recreation and other services; communication, property and business services; and finance and insurance. Retail trade; transport and storage and manufacturing were below the average. Sales performances last quarter ranged from modest to poor, with wholesale recording the highest net balance of +14 followed by +6 for cultural, recreation and other services. Transport and storage (-20) and retail (-13) battled the hardest. Negative profitability results were common last quarter with communication, property and business services the only positive performer (+10). Retailers (-23) struggled most on profitability followed by transport and storage (-14). For the current quarter, sales and profitability expectations are generally positive across the sectors with some variations. The best sales expectations are in retail and health and community services (+32 in each), while the lowest are in transport and storage (+2). On profitability, retail led with a +27 net balance, while hospitality was the weakest on -9. The net balances for year ahead sales expectations ranged from +24 in transport and storage to +53 in health and community services. For profitability, the same two sectors stood out at the top and bottom - health and community services with +40 and transport and storage with Sensis Business Index Introduction

8 SMB business cycle analysis A challenging last quarter has dampened performance expectations however they remain positive. SMBs are more confident about the economy and their own business prospects in Examining the latest key indicator results shown opposite provides a gauge on the potential direction of the Australian economy. Performance indicator results last quarter were uninspiring, yet confidence about their own business prospects for the next 12 months has lifted sharply and SMB perceptions of the economy in 2016 are now also positive. The Federal Government is more favourably viewed, coinciding with the change in Prime Minister and this appears to have influenced assessments and expectations measured in this survey. Business Confidence Results for this quarter Expectations for this quarter Expectations for next 12 months NA NA Increased optimism Economy NA NA Improved from pessimism to optimism Sales Flat Lower but positive Lower but still quite optimistic Employment Flat Marginally lower but positive Marginally lower but optimistic Wages Lower but positive Lower but positive Lower but still quite optimistic Prices Flat but positive Marginally lower but positive Profitability Capital Expenditure Marginally up but negative Lower but positive Lower but still quite optimistic Lower but still quite optimistic NA NA Lower and now pessimistic 7 Sensis Business Index Introduction

9 SBI snapshot SBI Snapshot The Sensis Business Index has tracked the confidence and behaviour of Australia s small and medium businesses (SMBs) since Here are some of the key findings of the latest report Who did we survey? Region Business size OPEN OPEN 65% Metro 35% Regional 90% Small 10% Medium What did they tell us? SMBs feeling confident 57% feel confident Because of: Specific business strengths Established, solid business Healthy, growing sales - 18% feel worried = Because of: Unfavourable business, economic or industry environment reasing sales +39 net balance Increased 12 points from last quarter SMB confidence by state Tasmania +64 ( 46) New South Wales +46 ( 12) Net confidence increased to +39 points Up 12 points from last quarter National average +39 ( 12) Victoria +38 ( 6) Australian Capital Territory +38 ( 9) Queensland +35 ( 10) Western Australia +31 ( 13) Northern Territory +24 ( 2) South Australia +16 ( ) 8 Sensis Business Index Introduction

10 SBI Snapshot SMB confidence by sector Health and Community Services +65 ( 24) Building and Construction +47 ( 21) Cultural, Recreational and Personal Services +42 ( 20) Finance and Insurance +40 ( 2) National average +39 ( 12) Communications, Property and Business Services +38 ( 2) Hospitality (Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants) +38 ( 14) Wholesale Trade +30 ( 28) Transport and Storage +24 ( 6) Retail Trade +19 ( 3) Manufacturing + ( 2) Perceptions of the economy now Perceptions of the economy a year from now Growth +14% Slowing +31% -17 Net balance Standing Still +55% Better +28% Worse +21% +7 Net balance Same +51% 2 points higher than last quarter 11 points higher than last quarter Experience and expectations on key business indicators *Net Balance for Key Indicators Actual experience ** Expectation for next 12 months *** Change in expectation for next 12 months Sales Size of workforce Wages Prices Profitability Capital expenditure NA -6 * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage reporting an increase and the percentage reporting a decrease. ** Actual experience relates to last 3 months. *** Expectation is for next 12 months.

11 Small and Medium Business Outlook National Summary SMB confidence in their own business prospects over the next 12 months Confidence by state and territory, sector and size...12 Perceptions of the economy...14 Expectations on key indicators for the next 12 months... Concerns Sales...17 Employment Wages bill Prices...20 Capital expenditure...21 Access to finance...22 Profitability...23 Exports Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

12 SMB confidence in their own business prospects over the next 12 months Net confidence has lifted to the highest score since March Key findings The net confidence level of Australian SMBs rose this quarter to a level not seen since ember Last quarter (July - September) The net balance figure was up 12 points to +39, with 57% of SMBs feeling confident about their prospects for the year ahead and 18% feeling worried. This represents a significant shift as the net balance had barely moved for the previous twelve months. The last time a similar net balance was observed was in the ember quarter of 2013 when the score was +38. Once more the leading factors generating confidence are specific strengths of the business, being an established, solid business and healthy, growing sales. Lack of work or sales continues to be the prime cause of concern. Overall confidence - 20 Thinking about the next 12 months, how confident do you feel about your business prospects? Small Business (up to 19 employees) Medium Business ( employees) Total Small and Medium Extremely confident Fairly confident Neutral Fairly worried Extremely worried Total confident Total worried *Net Balance Note: rounding occurs Confidence trends - past five quarters 14 Mar Confident 51% 49% 51% 50% 57% Worried 24% 22% 20% 23% 18% *Net Balance Jun Sep Long term trends in confidence 100 % 57% 50 % % 0 % Confident Worried *Net balance * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage who are confident and the percentage who are worried. 11 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

13 Confidence by state and territory, sector and size Confidence was higher almost across the board and substantially so in some cases. Key findings Confidence lifted everywhere except the ACT. Queensland improved for a third consecutive quarter with double figure improvements also noted in NSW, SA, WA and Tasmania. In Tasmania the net balance for confidence more than tripled. In Victoria confidence resembles the national average. SA is still clearly bottom of the pack but positive overall. The NT improved by only two points. Confidence lifted more in metropolitan than regional areas. The gap is now points compared to four points last quarter. Most regional areas are far less confident than their metropolitan counterparts. Most sectors are clearly more confident but some large differences exist. Small firms are now more confident than medium firms. Last quarter Tasmania jumped into a clear leadership position on confidence, rising 46 points to +64 net. NSW improved 12 points to +46, Victoria by six points to +38 and Queensland by 10 points to +35. WA (+31) and SA (+16) lifted 13 and points each but remain below average, as does the NT (up two points to +22). The only fall was recorded in the ACT (down 9 points to +38). The most confident capital city is Hobart, followed by Sydney and Brisbane with others under the national average. Darwin is now the most negative capital city having overtaken Adelaide. Regionally, confidence was strongest in Tasmania with the NT and WA also clearly above average. Regional SMBs in SA and Queensland were the least positive. Confidence was easily highest in the health and community services sector, with building and construction the only other industry noticeably above average. However, communications; property and business services; finance and insurance; cultural, recreational and personal services; and hospitality are around the national average. Confidence is positive but relatively low in manufacturing; retail, wholesale trade; transport and storage. Last survey medium sized businesses were much more positive about their prospects than small businesses - by a gap of 28 points - but that is no longer true with their net balance now at +34 compared to +39 for small businesses. Previously their net balances were +54 and +26 respectively, hence there has been quite a fall in the confidence of medium firms and a sizeable rise for small businesses. 12 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

14 Confidence by state and territory, sector and size Trends by state - *net balance 14 Mar National New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory Jun Sep Confidence by business size Confident Worried *Net Balance Total 57% 18% Employees 51% 17% Employees 60% 22% Employees 63% % Employees 63% 22% +41 Total Small Business 57% 18% Employees 56% 20% Employees 42% 17% +25 Total Medium Business 54% 20% +34 Note: rounding occurs. Metro and regional confidence - *net balance Metro Regional Total National New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory +38 NA +38 Confidence by sector Confident Worried *Net Balance Manufacturing 48% 33% + Building/Construction 60% 13% +47 Wholesale Trade 56% 26% +30 Retail Trade 48% 29% +19 Transport/Storage 46% 22% +24 Communication Property & Business Services 55% 17% +38 Finance and Insurance 53% 13% +40 Health and Community Services 74% 9% +65 Cultural, Recreational and Personal Services Hospitality (Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants) 62% 20% % 17% +38 * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage of SMBs with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. 13 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

15 Perceptions of the economy SMB expectations for the economy are improving. Key findings SMB assessments of the current state of the Australian economy are not quite as negative as last survey and their expectations for the next year have shifted into positive territory y y The economy now Growth Slowing Standing still The economy a year from now Worse Better Same Last quarter (July - September) There were one point improvements in the proportions believing the economy is growing or slowing down. This led to a net balance of -17 compared to -19 previously. SMB perceptions of the current state of the economy stayed negative everywhere but Tasmania (+1). They remain lowest in SA (-32) and WA (-32), despite lifting 8 and 9 points respectively. Regional SMBs (-17) are similar to those in metropolitan locations (-18) on this measure. Views about the economy in a year s time have improved by 11 points and are now positive on balance. The proportion expecting the economy to get better was up eight points from the prior survey with a three point drop in the proportion who feel the economy will be worse in a year s time. As a result, the net balance was +7 compared to -4 last time, -2 previously and -9 before that. There had been positive net balances throughout Expectations are now positive everywhere but SA (-5) and the NT (-8). There is a double figure net balance for year ahead expectations in NSW (+12), WA (+14), Tasmania (+22) and the ACT (+). Perceptions of the economy - trends The economy now 14 Mar Growth 19% 12% 13% 13% 14% Slowing 28% 35% 28% 32% 31% *Net Balance The economy a year from now Better 28% 20% 18% 20% 28% Worse 22% 29% 20% 24% 21% *Net Balance Perceptions of the economy Long term trends - *net balance Jun Sep There was a seven point gap between metropolitan (+10) and regional (+3) SMBs on this measure The economy now The economy a year from now Perceptions of the economy by state NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS NT ACT The economy now Growth 18% 9% 17% 8% 8% 19% 13% 16% Slowing 27% 36% 27% 40% 40% 18% 40% 22% *Net Balance The economy a year from now Better 33% 22% 27% 20% 36% 34% 24% 30% Worse 21% 20% 24% 25% 22% 12% 32% % *Net Balance * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. 14 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

16 Expectations on key indicators for the next 12 months Almost all the year ahead indicators were positive while lower than this time last year. Key findings Five of the six year ahead business indicators were lower relative to the 2014 ember quarter findings. SMBs are still more likely to be expecting increases in sales, employment, wages, prices and profitability than falls. The exception is capital expenditure. Next 12 months (to ember quarter 2016) Forty seven percent expect an increase in sales over the next 12 months with 13% expecting a decline. The net balance of +34 is six points lower than the 2014 result. SMBs in all states and territories were again positive with respect to increased sales. The net balance varied from a low of + in SA to a high of +56 in Tasmania. The ACT (+42), Victoria (+40) and NSW (+37) exceeded the national average. The health and community services sector is the most confident with a net +53 expecting better sales. The least optimistic sector is finance and insurance on net +22. Employment expectations for 2016 eased two points to a net balance of +11. Around the nation Tasmania had the best results with a net balance of +24. The least optimistic SMBs are in SA (+1) and the NT (+5). By industry the community, property and business services sector is the most bullish about employment results on +19, with retail the least positive on +3. Most of the other sectors resembled the national average in their year ahead employment expectations. Wages and salary costs for the year ahead are anticipated to increase with a net balance result of +25. The strongest expectations for wages were recorded in Tasmania (+41) and the lowest in SA (+). The wholesale sector is forecasting the biggest rise in wages over the next year (net balance of +39) followed by health and community services (+30). Retail stands out as the lowest on this measure (+13). Profitability expectations were down six points to net +28 in the latest survey. Tasmania (+42) and the ACT (+40) recorded the strongest profit expectations for the year ahead. At an industry level the health and community services sector (+40) displayed the highest annual profit expectations. Capital expenditure expectations for the year ahead were down points to a net balance of -6. The only positive capital expenditure expectations for the next 12 months were recorded in Tasmania (+3) and the ACT (+5). By industry this was true only for health and community services (+3) and finance and insurance (0). Expectations on key indicators over the next 12 months - 20 Expect an increase Expect a decrease *Net Balance Value of sales 47% 13% +34 Size of workforce 19% 8% +11 Wages bill 35% 10% +25 Prices charged 36% 4% +32 Profitability 44% 16% +28 Capital expenditure 28% 34% -6 * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. Expectations on key indicators - Trends in net balance over next 12 months Value of sales Size of workforce Wages bill Prices charged Profitability Capital expenditure * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. Selling price expectations for the year ahead were four points higher than in the ember 2014 quarter, with 36% expecting an increase and just 4% a fall in the prices they charge. Those in NSW (+41) and in the wholesale sector (+46) are the most likely to be expecting increased prices. Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

17 Concerns Once more lack of work or sales is the most mentioned concern. Key findings A similar proportion of SMBs (41%) said they are facing no significant problems in their business as last time (39%). As discovered for many surveys now, lack of work or sales is cited above any other concern. Last quarter Nineteen percent nominated lack of work or sales revenue as the main issue impacting their business. This was up one point from last quarter. This concern stood out most in Queensland and SA at 24% each and least in Tasmania at 10%. In the finance and insurance sector only 9% worried about lack of work but this was 28% in manufacturing. Prime concerns As far as your business is concerned, what problems, if any, are you facing at the moment? Lack of work/sales Economic climate Competition Cash flow/bad debts/profitability Paperwork/bureaucracy Finding/keeping staff Costs/overheads Employment costs and regulations Taxes 3% 2% 2% 7% 7% 6% 11% 10% 19% No concerns = 41% Prime concerns - long term trends - lack of work or sales 30 % 25 % 20 % 19% Spontaneous concern about the economic climate was mentioned by 11%, compared to 14% last time. Economic climate includes issues such as consumer confidence and spending levels, interest and exchange rates, concerns about the general economic climate, as well as global, state and regional economic concerns. This was most prominent in SA (20%) and WA (19%) as well as in the retail sector (17%). % 10 % 5 % 0 % Competition concerns registered 10% (previously 7%) with this figure at 11% in WA and 19% in the transport and storage sector. Cash flow, bad debts or profitability, down three points, was mentioned by 7% overall, 11% in SA and by 11% of manufacturers. All other issues were raised by fewer than 10% of SMBs and that has been a consistent situation for some time now. Prime concerns - long term trends - economic climate 25 % 20 % % 10 % 5 % 11% Interestingly, 6% of SMBs mentioned difficulties in finding quality staff and when asked what specific problems they encountered the primary reasons given were lack of qualified or skilled staff (20%) and finding people who want to work (%). 0 % Prime concerns - long term trends - cash flow 20 % % 10 % 7% 5 % 0 % Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

18 Sales Sales remain flat and expectations have reduced but remain optimistic. Key findings Overall, sales performance has continued to be weak despite expectations for the quarter ahead remaining optimistic. Last quarter Sales performance registered a net balance of -1, which was one point down on the previous quarter. Value of sales Last Quarter 14 Mar Experienced increase 33% 30% 23% 29% 26% No change 34% 37% 50% 41% 45% Experienced decrease 31% 31% 25% 29% 27% Jun Sep *Net Balance Current Quarter Expect increase 34% 43% 31% 38% 32% No change 43% 44% 55% 46% 49% Expect decrease 20% 12% 13% 14% 16% *Net Balance Sales performance was best in Tasmania (+17) followed by Victoria (+5). It was worst in WA (-19). Across industry sectors, wholesale recorded the leading sales performance (+14) while the weakest was in transport and storage (-20). Retail was also a struggling sector (-13). Current quarter SMBs are expecting higher sales over the current quarter. Thirty two percent expect an increase in sales and 16% forecast a fall giving a net balance of +16, which is eight points lower than last time. Sales expectations are positive in all locations except the NT where the net balance is -9. Tasmania and the ACT stood out with net balances of +46 and +35. By industry, the expectations are best in the health and community services and retail sectors (+32 in each). Value of sales - trends in *net balance Experience Expectations 14 * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook Next 12 months Twelve month sales expectations were six points lower to net +34, with 47% expecting their sales to increase in the next 12 months and 13% expecting a decrease. This net balance score compares with +58 observed two years ago in ember Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

19 Employment A subdued employment situation perseveres. Key findings This indicator has not gained traction for quite some time. Last quarter Ten percent of SMBs increased employment and 10% reported a decrease creating a neutral net balance. The net balance range has been -4 to +1 for the last six quarters. Size of workforce Last Quarter 14 Mar Experienced increase 10% 11% 8% 12% 10% No change 79% 79% 81% 75% 80% Experienced decrease 12% 10% 11% 13% 10% *Net Balance Current Quarter Expect increase 11% 14% 11% 13% 12% No change 83% 78% 83% 80% 79% Expect decrease 6% 7% 5% 6% 7% *Net Balance Jun Sep At a state level, the best result was in Queensland (+10). It was not positive anywhere else. WA and Tasmania were lowest with a net balance of -6. Size of workforce - trends in *net balance 20 The best performing sector was cultural, recreational and other personal services (+8), in stark contrast to transport and storage (-7). Fifty-two percent reported barriers to taking on new employees (50% last survey). Lack of work or sales is again the dominant barrier, mentioned by 49% (42% last survey). Business growth remained the prime reason for boosting staff Current quarter Minimal change was noted again with 12% forecasting an increase and 7% expecting to shed staff. The net balance of +5 is in line with the last five surveys. Experience Expectations * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. What are the barriers to taking on new employees? Tasmania (+16) is the most optimistic, while SMBs in SA (-2) and the NT (-10) are in negative territory. By sector, expectations are highest in cultural, recreational and personal services (+14) and lowest in hospitality (-2). Next 12 months Year ahead expectations are positive. Nineteen percent expect an increase and 8% a decrease. The net balance of +11 compares with +13 in 2014 and +17 in Lack of work/sales Finding suitable staff Lack of funds Cost of employing Paperwork/administration Economic climate Employment conditions Fluctuating workload Too many changes/regulations/rules Lack of cash flow Cost of wages Profitability/lack of profits 8% 7% 7% 4% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 2% 49% Note: Base = those who believe barriers or impediments exist (52% of all respondents). All other responses less than 2%. Why SMBs have increased employment - 20 Business is growing Economic conditions improving Increasing staff from part time to full time Replacing staff that left Planning ahead for economic growth Easier to find staff in current economic conditions Other reason 17% 12% 10% 6% 2% 18% 47% Note: Base = SMBs that have increased staff in the past quarter (11% of all respondents). 18 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

20 Wages bill Wages pressure has eased. Key findings Expectations for wages growth among SMBs were down on the prior survey. Last quarter Twenty-one percent indicated higher wages against a % fall. The net balance of +6 compares with +10 previously and +9 one year earlier. Wages bill Last Quarter 14 Mar Experienced increase 23% 25% % 25% 21% No change 59% 56% 67% 57% 61% Experienced decrease 14% % 14% % % *Net Balance Current Quarter Expect increase 22% 24% 20% 26% 21% No change 66% 67% 71% 65% 67% Expect decrease 11% 8% 6% 7% 10% *Net Balance Jun Sep Wages growth in the last quarter registered a net balance of +19 in Tasmania and between +7 and +12 in NSW, Queensland, the NT and the ACT. This was negative in WA (-7) and below average in Victoria (+4). Sector-wise, retail recorded the greatest rise in wage costs on +16, followed by finance and insurance (+14). The transport and storage sector was easily lowest on this indicator (-11), with wholesale at +3. Current quarter In this quarter, 21% foresee increased wage costs while 10% expect a decrease. The net balance of +11 compares with +19 last quarter and +11 a year ago. There is a positive net balance in all but two locations for wages expectations ranging from +5 in SA to +33 in Tasmania. The NT (-3) and WA (-1) are negative. Wages bill - trends in *net balance Experience Expectations * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook Expected wage growth is highest in wholesale and cultural, recreational and other services (+18 in each) and lowest in communications, property and business services (+2). Next 12 months Expectations for wages growth over the next year have slipped slightly relative to the previous survey. Thirty-five percent expect wages growth and just 10% expect a decline. The net balance of +25 is five points lower than in Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

21 Prices Steady pricing behaviour with expectations still trending down. Key findings Overall prices have lifted quite consistently over the year while expectations have tempered. Last quarter There was no shift in the net balance of +9. Price increases were noted by % with 6% cutting prices. Net price changes last quarter were in the range of 0 (SA) to +22 (Tasmania). Prices charged Last Quarter 14 Mar Experienced increase 17% 21% 16% 18% % No change 70% 67% 73% 70% 76% Experienced decrease 10% 10% 8% 9% 6% *Net Balance Current Quarter Expect increase 17% 26% 20% 21% 17% No change 77% 68% 75% 72% 78% Expect decrease 5% 5% 2% 5% 3% *Net Balance Prices charged - trends in *net balance 40 Jun Sep By sector we saw a well above average situation in wholesale (+26) followed by retail (+), which was clearly higher than finance and insurance (+1), manufacturing (+3), health and community services (+3) Current quarter -10 Expectations for price rises this quarter were two points lower, establishing a net balance of Experience Expectations 14 These expectations ranged from +6 in SA and WA to +17 in Victoria and +19 in Tasmania. Expectations for increased pricing were strongest in manufacturing (+25), wholesale and retail (both +21). Lowest on this measure were SMBs in the finance and insurance sector (+3). Next 12 months At a net balance of +32, expectations for price rises in the year ahead were higher than one year earlier when it registered +28. Over the year 36% expect a rise in the prices they charge with 4% predicting a fall. 20 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

22 Capital expenditure Negative results expected to continue next year. Key findings More SMBs reported decreased capital expenditure over the last year than an increase. This also applies to expectations for next year. Last 12 months In the last year, 30% increased capital expenditure, whilst 34% reduced it. The net balance of -4 cannot be compared with another last 12 months measure as this is a new question. However, in the ember quarter of 2014 we did ask about capital expenditure for the last 3 months and that revealed a net balance of -9 suggesting there has been little improvement on this indicator for some time. Capital expenditure - trends Over last 12 months spent More than in previous 12 months NA 30% Same as in previous 12 months NA 33% Less than in previous 12 months NA 34% *Net Balance NA -4 Over next 12 months expect to spend More than this year 29% 28% Same as this year 49% 35% Less than this year 20% 34% *Net Balance +9-6 NOTE: This question is only asked in the ember quarter survey about the last 12 months and next 12 months. Capital expenditure refers to funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. It is often used to undertake new projects or investments by the firm. 14 Only in NSW (+3) and the NT (+10) was there a positive net balance in this area. In other locations it ranged from 0 (Tasmania) to -12 (SA). Capital expenditure last year also varied substantially across sectors, ranging from + in health and community services to -20 in transport and storage. Next 12 months There was a drop from net +9 to -6 in SMBs expecting to increase capital expenditure in the coming year. Capital expenditure expectations in the next 12 months were highest in the ACT (+5) and Tasmania (+2) and negative elsewhere, especially in SA (-17). By sector, health and community services recorded a net balance of +3, while in finance and insurance it was +1. The scores were negative for the remaining sectors, with transport and storage again standing out on Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

23 Access to finance Obtaining finance is still challenging for SMBs. Key findings Access to finance - trends in *net balance SMBs ability to access finance is critical for capital expenditure and growth. Overall they are still not finding it easy to access finance Last quarter Accessing finance continues to just hover in positive territory. The net score of +3 compares with +1 and +4 in the last two surveys and +2 one year ago SMBs in SA (-4) and WA (-5) battled to access finance most of all, while those in NSW were the most positive on this dimension (+5) By sector, transport and storage (+17) stood out at the top end in contrast to manufacturing (-5), cultural, recreational and other personal services (-7). Medium size firms (+16) found it easier than small firms (+2) to access finance. The gap last time was +27 in favour of medium businesses. Sixteen percent of SMBs indicated an attempt to access finance, compared to 17% last quarter. However, of those, 73% had success in both surveys. The highest incidence of seeking finance was in Tasmania (28%) followed by WA (22%). The lowest was in NSW (11%). SMBs in the transport and storage sector (30%) were the most likely to have sought finance. Relatively easy Relatively hard *Net balance * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. Ease of accessing finance - by business size ( 20) Easy Difficult *Net Balance Total 24% 21% Employees 21% 21% Employees 23% 23% Employees 26% 18% Employees 28% 21% +7 Total Small Business 23% 21% Employees 31% 14% Employees 25% 17% +8 Total Medium Business 30% 14% +16 Base: Those who had tried to access finance. Access to finance 14 Last Quarter Relatively easy 25% 24% 19% 23% 24% Average 52% 58% 66% 55% 56% Relatively hard 23% 18% % 22% 21% *Net Balance Mar Jun Sep Success in accessing finance y Have you tried to access finance for your business in the past quarter? Yes No Were you successful? Pending No y Yes 22 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

24 Profitability Consistently negative profitability experiences are tempering expectations. Key findings Despite SMBs reporting negative profitability for some time, their expectations have been upbeat. However, expectations have fallen nine points this quarter. Last quarter Twenty-three percent reported a profit rise against a 28% fall. The net balance result of -5 compares with -7 last survey. The last net positive profitability result recorded was in February Profitability was negative everywhere but Tasmania (+17) and Victoria (+1). It was very weak in WA (-21) and the NT (-17). Only in communications, property and business services (+10) was profitability positive. Retail (-23) and transport and storage (-14) ranked lowest on this measure. Profitability Last Quarter 14 Experienced increase 26% 24% 21% 24% 23% No change 37% 40% 53% 43% 47% Experienced decrease 34% 34% 24% 31% 28% Mar *Net Balance Current Quarter Expect increase 33% 44% 29% 35% 29% No change 44% 41% 55% 47% 50% Expect decrease 22% 13% 14% 16% 19% *Net Balance Profitability - trends in *net balance Jun Sep Current quarter Profitability expectations are the lowest they have been this year, now sitting on +10. Experience Expectations * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. The expectations are well above average in Tasmania (+38) and the ACT (+33). The opposite is true for WA (-3) and the NT (-14). Other locations are positive overall ranging from +5 (SA) to +16 (Victoria). The retail (+27) and cultural, recreational and personal services sectors (+25) are the most positive, with the weakest being hospitality (-9) and finance and insurance (-6). Next 12 months Expectations for the year ahead have decreased again. Fortyfour percent expect increased profitability and 16% anticipate a decrease. The net balance of +28 compares with +34 in 2014 and +52 in Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

25 Exports Exports have not grown in three years. Key findings There has been no growth in the proportion of SMBs exporting over the last three years. Last 12 months Eleven percent of SMBs exported goods or services in the last year (12% in 2014 and 13% in 2013). SMBs in the ACT (17%) were most likely to export followed by NSW (14%), while those in the NT were the least likely (5%). Proportion of SMBs exporting in the last year National New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia Tasmania Northern Territory Australian Capital Territory * Net balance is defined as the difference between the percentage with a positive outlook and the percentage with a negative outlook. 7% 7% 5% 11% 14% 10% 11% 10% 17% Metropolitan SMBs were more likely to export than their regional counterparts (14% compared to 6%). Manufacturers (29%) and wholesalers (26%) were again the most export-oriented. Least likely was the hospitality sector (1%). New exporters Only 1% of the SMBs not exporting in the last year expect to do so in the next 12 months. This intention ranges from 0% in WA to 3% in NSW and the ACT. By industry, wholesale stands out at 9% with the rest ranging from 0% to 3% on this measure. Exporting and business growth Elsewhere in this survey we discovered 43% of SMBs seeking growth for their business and 6% of those expect their growth will mainly come from exports. This represents under 3% of the total base. 24 Sensis Business Index Small and medium business outlook national summary

26 Government Policies Government policies...26 Assessment of Federal Government policies Assessment of state and territory government policies Sensis Business Index Government policies

27 Government policies The maps below show the net balance of attitudes to Federal, state and territory government policies. This is calculated from the proportion believing the government is supportive less the proportion believing it to be working against small business interests. Also displayed is the change in net balance compared with the previous quarter. Attitudes to Federal Government policies National +7 6 Northern Territory Queensland +3 6 Western Australia -5 1 South Australia Victoria +4 1 New South Wales ACT Tasmania Attitudes to state and territory government policies Northern Territory Queensland - 7 Western Australia -10 No change South Australia New South Wales Victoria ACT +12 Tasmania Sensis Business Index Government policies

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