The survey reveals that almost a quarter of SMEs could be vulnerable to liquidation when insolvency criteria begin to normalise.

The survey, carried out between July and September last year, found that over 70% of firms had seen sales fall during the lockdown.

The median, or mid-point, fall was 25% but it was as high as 65% in the hotels and restaurants sector.

SMEs from all sectors were affected, the report showed.

It also found there was no correlation between a company’s past performance and what happened to it during lockdown.

Company expenditure fell by 8.5% on average with 40% of companies cutting their spending.

Approximately 30% of firms made a loss while another 30% “broke even”.

The report also showed that 61% of SMEs received wage subsidies.

The percentage was higher in the hotels and restaurants sector (85%) and construction (70%).

20% of companies used tax warehousing offered by Revenue, which allowed for tax payments to be postponed. But fewer than 6% used available loan supports.

The survey finds that 5.4% of SMEs which were loss-making in 2019 were “struggling” in 2020, while 19% of SMEs “breaking even” in 2019 were struggling in 2020.

It said these two groups are “more vulnerable to liquidation as the pandemic evolved and insolvency criteria begin to normalise”.

Meanwhile, 42% of SMEs were profitable in 2019 but struggling in 2020.