Many SMEs have been able to fill the piggy bank again in 2021

In 2021, SMEs showed an increase in revenue of more than 10% compared to 2020 and an increase in profits of almost 38%. It is average and there are significant differences between and within sectors. If, for example, we compare the figures for the catering industry with the pre-corona year 2019, we see that the sector is far from at the old level.

This is stated in the new SRA report ‘Branches in view 2022, the hard figures of Dutch companies’.

The gross margin in the hospitality sector, which also includes holiday parks, increased by more than 16%, compared to a decrease of more than 22% a year earlier. The profit development for the catering industry as a whole in 2021 will not be less than +210%. However, the differences are large. For almost 54% of entrepreneurs, profits have remained unchanged or increased. More than 46% of entrepreneurs in the catering industry must therefore be content with a decrease in profits. For almost 31% of companies, it is even a reduction of 50% or more.

The extremely strong growth in profits for the hotel industry as a whole deserves further nuance. It is initially a comparison with the extremely bad 2020, when the catering industry’s profits plummeted by 21.5%. In addition, the government’s corona support packages in 2021 were of a better quality than in the first corona year. This made it better at the bottom of the line.

The holiday parks show a different pattern within the catering sector. For example, they had already benefited greatly from travel bans in 2020. Although they showed positive results for 2021, the development was limited compared to other sub-sectors.

Stock development

Equity in SMEs increased by almost 17% in total. A year earlier, there was an increase of almost 13%. The growth in equity in 2021 will to a large extent be related to the solid earnings growth added to equity. In addition, corona support from the government has provided liquidity.

Creditworthiness was improved

The proportion of catering companies that can meet the financial obligations (a PD rating <1%) reached almost 86. This is a strong improvement over the previous year (almost 76). The industry is now performing roughly in line with the SME average, which improved slightly to over 86%. Here too, however, the differences within the catering industry are large.

Concerns about access to finance

SMEs face major challenges. This applies, among other things, to the sharp rise in energy prices – partly due to the war in Ukraine – the scarcity of raw materials, staff shortages and the fall in purchasing power. And that while, according to Harry Marissen, board member of SRA, and Jacco Vonhof, chairman of MKB-Nederland, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain financing. “I think it’s a worrying development,” says Marissen. “Companies must prepare for the future and continue to innovate and invest, also in the energy transition.”

What must the government do now to create a favorable business climate? Vonhof: “We can be proud of the achievements of entrepreneurs. Last year was a good year for many sectors. Industry SMEs, for example, also need the buffers to cope with the crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. We are concerned about the entrepreneurs who have to survive with significant corona debt. The government needs to be aware of this group. As entrepreneurs, we face significant innovation and thus investment challenges. Digitization and robotisation will be given a boost in the light of the tight labor market. In any case, investing to meet the sustainability requirements requires a lot from SMEs. It is very good news that the average equity of SMEs has remained stable in 2021. The fact that access to finance has not improved is a major setback. If we do not address this, we will not reach our ambitions. “

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