VSEs below the level of inflation

VSEs below the level of inflation
VSEs below the level of inflation

Only +1.5%. On April 23, in Paris, Banque Populaire and the FCGA, Federation of approved management centers presented the results of the study of “ Small Business Observatory, tops and flops, 2023 “. The context: one year “ economically turbulent », recalled Thomas Vassel, director of development at Banque Populaire, mprofessional and business market. Increase in interest rates, “Covid repayments”, slowdown in activity and restriction of household consumption, inflation (+4.9%)… “ With a growth index of around 1.5%, the activity of VSEs remains in the shadow of inflation », commented Christophe Dunoyer, vice-president of the FCGA. In fact, the impact of price increases makes the interpretation of the index the activity of VSEs more difficult. However, sectoral differences remain telling.

And certain sectors are showing increases that exceed that of inflation. This is the case for cafés-hotels-restaurants, with an increase of 6.2% in 2023, compared to +28.5% in 2022. But a result in “ optical illusion », warns Christophe Dunoyer. The 2022 figures reflected more of a return to normal than an extraordinary performance and we must also take into account upward adjustments in wages and prices. The second highest growth rate is automobile sales and repairs (+ 4.4%, after + 1.4% in 2022). But this development undoubtedly also owes a lot to the rise in wages. As for retail trade (+4.3, after -1.5%) “ this is one of the sectors most impacted by inflation », points out Christophe Dunoyer. On the other hand, certain sectors suffered a significant drop in their activity index compared to the previous year. This is the case for personal equipment (from +6.9% in 2022 to +0.9% in 2023) and culture and leisure (from +3% to -1.1 %). “ The problem of purchasing power is in question. Certain sectors are feeling the arbitrage of households in their consumption », explains Christophe Dunoyer.

As for the health professions, they constitute a somewhat different case, marked by a significant drop in their activity from +5.6% to -5.1%. “ They had experienced an unusual development in 2021 and 2022, where the problem of Covid testing still arose. », notes Christophe Dunoyer. Activity also suffered in the building trades (-1.3%, vs +3.3%).

Real estate is struggling

The study also records differentiated developments in professions, which combine the effects of inflation and their own problems. In the lead, automobile body shops showed the strongest growth (+ 11%), linked to the increase in prices of spare parts and labor, but also to the increasing complexity of interventions (electronics). Next come cream cheese makers (+9.1%). “ The price of milk has increased in the same proportions. But this did not discourage the French from consuming cheese », remarks Christophe Dunoyer. According to the CSA barometer of the Federation of French Cheesemakers cited by the study, nearly 9 out of ten French people eat it several times a week! Third profession to have evolved the fastest, catering with +7.5%, growth which is mainly explained by “ the increase in the average ticket “.

At the other extreme of the ranking, sports stores showed the biggest decline (-6.6%, after +9.9%), which would correspond to a stabilization of activity after three years of strong growth. Second profession to suffer the most, plastering-staff-decoration (-5.5% after +5.6%), a sign of the fragility of the building maintenance-improvement market. Next come pharmacies which went to -5.3, after +5.8%. In 2023, 236 pharmacies closed their doors, 60% more than in 2022.

In this list of struggling professions, the next two belong to the real estate sector: real estate agencies (-4.8%, after -8%) and earthmoving and public works companies (-4.3% vs. +1.7%). “ The entire real estate sector is affected », comments Christophe Dunoyer. Will 2024 be more favorable to him? On the demand side, the conditions for obtaining credit are improving, but on the supply side, the cessation of new construction programs constitutes a “ real difficulty », Analyzes Thomas Vassel. All sectors combined, the FCGA does not observe any notable change in the activity of VSEs over the first two months of the year.

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