They believe that Ireland is not an easy place in which to do business with only 16 per cent feeling that State agencies are pro-business according to the most comprehensive independent research yet undertaken by the VFI amongst its members in advance of its 39th AGM tomorrow in Kilkenny.
71 per cent would like to see the relevant authorities reduce bureaucracy and red tape while 59 per cent believe that they deal with too many agencies as it is, who often send out conflicting messages.
The survey of 351 publicans carried out by Ask Chilli for the Federation finds that 63 per cent of VFI members have reduced staffing levels in the last 12 months while only 10 per cent have increased levels. 62 per cent have reduced the working hours of existing staff while only one in 10 have increased staffing levels in the last 12 months.
The findings are illuminating, pointing to general disillusionment amongst members. Crucially, the statistics show that the Irish pub is typically a small rural family run business and is a source of employment in parts of Ireland where there may be few other alternatives.
The survey also finds:
• 45 per cent of pubs outside Dublin are in a rural/village location. 41 per cent are in towns, nine per cent in a city and five per cent in city suburbs
• 39 per cent of pubs are in Munster, 32 per cent in Leinster (excluding Dublin), 20 per cen in Connacht and nine per cent in Ulster
• 63 per cent of pubs employ five or less people, 18 per cent employ 6 to 10 people, six per cent employ 11 to 15 while 13 per cent employ 16 or more.
The pub trade and other small businesses are suffering from a crisis in consumer confidence, high rate costs and over regulation according to the statistics.
Members are meeting over the coming days to look at ways to inject life into the trade in an attempt to save jobs and businesses. Publicans will examine promotion of the Irish pub, running of events, marketing, service and standards. In addition, pubs will look to government support to ensure economic stimulus and stability measures to help increase consumer confidence.
The Ask Chilli survey further found that for 58 per cent of publicans consumer confidence is low and getting lower. Another 16 per cent believe that it has hit rock bottom.
The reduction in local authority rates is the issue most exercising publicans (76 per cent) while introducing a minimum price for alcohol is deemed the most important factor in aiding recovery in the pub trade by 35 per cent.
Offering value for money is the second most important at 21 per cent, followed by service at 11 per cent and events and festivals at 16 per cent.
However 62 per cent feel that Euro 2012 will have the most positive impact on trade.
Amongst the other findings:
• 58 per cent are putting on extra events and activities
• Amid some reports that Ireland is starting to turn a corner, only 22 per cent have seen signs of recovery over the last 12 months
• The vast majority (69 per cent) do not believe that the business environment in Ireland is suitable for a recovery
• 63 per cent believe that a minimum price on alcohol will have a significant impact on trade.
The outgoing President of the VFI, a rural publican himself in Ardattin, Gerry Mellett, said, “This research highlights a good deal of what we already knew. The vast majority of publicans are cutting costs and letting staff go in an attempt to stay in business. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low and unless we get stability and stimulus, confidence will not return.
“We have suffered from years of badly thought-out legislation and are now suffering due to the economic mismanagement of the previous administration. We now need clarity and a new vision from this government and all small business throughout Ireland need assistance and stimulus and confidence to ensure we stay alive.
“The pub has a vital role to play as the hub of many communities and as a major tourist attraction but there is mass disillusionment amongst a large rump of members who are in serious jeopardy of going out of business after several generations in the trade”.