In the latest quarterly survey of small and medium-sized enterprises by the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the SME Leading Business Index hit a three-year low of 44.4.
All three major industry sub-indices — manufacturing; import, export and wholesale; and retail — were down, with the gauge for the retail sector being the lowest.
The volatile global economy, a strong Hong Kong dollar and China’s economic slowdown were key headwinds facing SMEs, according to Gordon Lo, director of business management at HKPC.
While the weak business confidence raises the likelihood of salary freezes or even lay-offs among SMEs, some respondents said they will counter the adverse situation by developing new business and tapping the internet as an additional sales and marketing channel.
In this regard, Lo urges SMEs to adopt the online-to-offline approach — use online marketing to draw more business to physical retail outlets.
Companies may also consider 3D printing technology as a way to develop new markets, Lo says.
Despite the pessimism among SMEs, Kelvin Lau, senior economist at Standard Chartered Hong Kong, believes that we are close to the trough of the business cycle and “things should start stabilizing as we enter 2016”.
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