Over half of SMEs see drop in profit margins as Singapore economy slows: SCCCI

SMALL and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are bracing themselves for a hit to profit margins as Singapore’s economic slump widens, with revenue growth their key concern going forward, according to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI)’s annual business survey.

The preliminary results were revealed by SCCCI President Roland Ng at the opening of the Chamber's SME Conference on Wednesday. It surveyed 972 respondents, of which 95 per cent were SMEs.  

In the survey, over half of the businesses said they are expecting a decline in margins this year, up from 45.4 per cent last year. In addition, nearly two in five or almost 40 per cent of respondents predicted a drop in revenue, higher than the 26.8 per cent a year ago. 

Earlier this month, Singapore cut its official growth forecast for the second quarter running to almost zero, on a flat economic performance in the first of the year. 

Against the sluggish backdrop, 82.1 per cent of the businesses polled are making revenue growth their top priority, ahead of product innovation, talent retention and digitalisation.

But most of them (60 per cent) said they will retain their present workforce.  

Only 17 per cent of them said they would cut back on manpower. 

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Ng urged the business community to share their views with the government and the union, and strengthen the tripartite collaboration in “an environment riddled with challenges”.

On its part, the Chamber will continue working with the government to find more ways to help local SMEs evolve and upgrade.

However, Mr Ng also said he hopes that the government is “prepared to offer businesses timely and effective help” should economic prospects remain uncertain, or if there is a protracted downturn in the global economy.

Looking externally, US-China trade tensions are the biggest concern weighing on SMEs’ minds, going by the survey. 

That said, 42.8 per cent of businesses are keen to learn how to make use of, and benefit from free trade agreements.