A great lamentation can be heard again among the Austrian commercial and craft enterprises. If the recovery last year was already promising for a long time, 2021 ended with a “very bitter aftertaste” due to the fourth lockdown and the rapid spread of Omikron, as the responsible federal department of the Chamber of Commerce reported on Friday. The renewed surge of the corona pandemic slowed the upswing. “The companies are therefore extremely insecure and started the new year 2022 with mostly negative expectations,” said division chairwoman Renate Scheichelbauer-Schuster in an online press conference.
In addition to Covid, what is also causing problems for companies are delivery bottlenecks for individual raw materials such as wood and the associated high material costs, but also the sharp rise in energy prices and the acute shortage of skilled workers. “Many companies are severely affected by these problems,” said Scheichelbauer-Schuster.
Most recently, according to its managing director Reinhard Kainz, the federal division for trade and handicrafts had a total of 233,354 companies. All in all, the number of employees was around 709,600.
Hairdressers particularly suffer
For the past year 2021, KMU Research Austria, an institute closely related to the Chamber of Commerce, is assuming a division turnover of 105 to 106 billion euros on the basis of the latest data surveys. Although this is 5 to 6 billion more than in the recession year 2020, the value remains far from the 108 billion euros that were generated in 2019. “At the pre-crisis level, there are still two to three billion euros in sales missing,” said Christina Enichlmair from SME Research.
A survey carried out around the turn of the year shows that the mood in the domestic trade and craft sector has meanwhile deteriorated significantly. According to Enichlmair, 98 percent of the companies surveyed from the consumer-related sectors of hairdressers, foot care / cosmetics / masseurs, professional photographers as well as fashion and clothing technology were affected by the fourth lockdown and the associated restrictions.
For 56 percent, orders or demand were down. Furthermore, 35 percent of the companies – especially hairdressers – stated that they had liquidity problems. Only two percent of the consumer-related businesses surveyed expect “good” to “very good” sales for the first quarter of 2022 (8 percent “satisfactory”, 35 percent “bad” to “very bad”, 55 percent “cannot be estimated”).
In contrast, at 54 percent, significantly fewer companies in the investment goods-related sectors of construction, ancillary construction, carpenters and metalworking see themselves affected by the lockdown consequences. Here, 26 percent reported declining orders and customer numbers, 5 percent have liquidity problems. 16 percent expect “good” to “very good” incoming orders for the first quarter (51 percent “satisfactory”, 6 percent “bad” to “very bad”, 27 percent “cannot be estimated”). However, 80 percent of construction and construction-related businesses and 93 percent of carpenters recently had to struggle with problems in the procurement of materials and raw materials. Only 14 percent see no significant supply problems for the first quarter.
The development of the number of apprentices has recently been encouraging: at the end of December there were 13,596 first-year apprentices in the trades and trades (plus 4.7 percent). In total, the companies in the division are currently training 46,875 apprentices – 0.5 percent more than a year ago. (dress)