Following the exceptional surge in Swiss exports last year, the SME Export Outlook suggests that the sector will continue to grow over the coming months. Export sentiment among Swiss SMEs, as surveyed by Switzerland Global Enterprise, stands at 66.6 points, and thereby remains well above the growth threshold of 50 points. Furthermore, the Credit Suisse Export Barometer, at 1.49 points, also points to further growth.
However, the surveys also reflect a continuous cooling, although order books remain well filled. The main problem lies in the disruptions in the value chain, which were triggered by the pandemic and are now being further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the rigid coronavirus policy in China. Meanwhile, 64 % of companies are facing corresponding chal-lenges, 19 % more than six months ago. Moreover, topics such as “inflation” and “energy and raw material prices” are once again increasingly emerging on companies’ lists of con-cerns.
The most important export destinations for Swiss SMEs remain their directly neighboring countries, the USA, and China. For more than 70% of the companies, Germany remains one of the most important target markets. These are followed by a wide margin by the USA (33 %), France (25 %), China (23 %), Italy (19 %) and Austria (17 %). While opening up new markets is not an issue that features at the top of corporate agendas at present, tapping the South American market represents an exceptionally strong trend among SMEs that are still keen to expand: 11 % of all companies surveyed wish to newly supply this market. By con-trast, Russia, unsurprisingly, is losing importance and has almost completely disappeared from the lists of priorities of Swiss SMEs.
Andreas Gerber, Head of Corporate Clients Switzerland at Credit Suisse, notes: “The consequences of the current global challenges are weighing heavily on Swiss SMEs. The main concern lies in supply chain problems, which at present are particularly affecting the mechanical engineering industry, manufacturers of data processing equipment and, more recently, the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Nevertheless, all indicators suggest that we can look forward to significant growth in the export sector over the next three to six months. The reasons for this are, firstly, that demand for Swiss products remains high and is ensuring full order books. Secondly, over the past two years Swiss SMEs have found ways to deal with the adversities of the pandemic, and now also the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, thanks to their great innovative capabilities and flexibility.”
Alberto Silini, Senior Director Global Consulting at Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), adds: “While until recently the Covid pandemic represented the greatest challenge for the export industry, the conflict in Ukraine is now increasingly the focus of attention. And supply chain problems also remain, which have intensified again after a brief period of recovery and are slowing growth down to a significant extent. The issues of “energy and raw material prices” and “inflation” have been newly added to companies’ lists of concerns and could become significantly more important in the coming months. Finally, the current global situation means not only that expansion plans are being reprioritized, but also that alternative regions such as South America are increasingly coming into focus for companies that are still aiming to expand.”
Video statements (in German) on current export sentiment by Meret Mügeli, Credit Suisse economist, and Alberto Silini, Senior Director Global Consulting at Switzerland Global Enterprise, are available here.
The SME Export Outlook for H1 2023 will be published on January 26, 2023.