French small business resilient despite slowdown

In its 75th business survey on the situation of very small businesses, Bpifrance highlights the dynamism of companies with fewer than 250 employees. Although a slowdown is expected in 2022, business should nonetheless be resilient, and hiring should remain at an encouraging level despite an uncertain environment.

Different outlooks for different sectors

According to Bpifrance's business survey "SMEs: a slowdown in activity anticipated, but dynamic hiring in 2022", the slowdown in activity among French SMEs in 2022 is likely to be less severe than previously anticipated, despite an economic context marked by rapidly rising inflation and the war in Ukraine.

Companies with fewer than 250 employees are still benefiting from the rebound seen in 2021, after a year in 2020 disrupted by Covid-19 and various confinements. In 2022, average sales growth for very small businesses is expected to reach +4.9%, compared with +7% in 2021.

However, the situation is not the same for all sectors. The construction and retail sectors are likely to be the most affected by rising prices and supply difficulties. Last year, business leaders in these sectors were more likely to forecast an increase in their activity, with a balance of opinion of +22 and +23 in 2021, compared with +8 and +9 in 2022.

On the other hand, in the tourism sector, 68% of very small businesses anticipate an increase in sales over the year, even if the recovery in international tourism is only partial due to Covid-19. In the industrial sector, the balance of opinion remains above its long-term average, at +35.

Employment: encouraging figures despite recruitment difficulties

As far as hiring is concerned, recruitment difficulties are on the increase. A year ago, 75% of business managers surveyed said they had had difficulty hiring, and 35% said they had encountered major difficulties. Today, 84% say they are finding it difficult to recruit, and 47% say they are experiencing major difficulties.

However, employment is expected to remain buoyant, even in the tourism sector. This is the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that the balance of opinion on hiring intentions has been positive in this sector.

SMEs with more than 10 employees, as well as those with an international focus, should see the greatest dynamism in terms of job creation.

Finally, the ecological and energy transition of very small businesses should represent an opportunity for 36% of them. However, more companies with 10 to 250 employees (46%) see their ecological and energy transition as a source of opportunity than companies with fewer than 10 employees (34%).