A new survey of SMEs reveals that high-street businesses rely on local eateries and the hospitality sector to drive footfall and trade.

More than half of those questioned in the Champion Green survey of SMEs believe that having bars, restaurants and cafés fully open is important for the restoration of the local economy.

The survey also show that 56% believe the quality of local food and hospitality provision affects local shopping habits and it expected that today's opening up of indoor dining will encourage consumers to stay closer to home for their shopping needs.

Champion Green's survey showed that 56% of small business owners lost money due to turnover falling during Covid-19 lockdowns with the average overall loss put at 43% for the year ending March 2021.

But confidence in the sector is still high with 80% of SMEs confident or very confident about their own employment situation in the next three months, while 66% are confident on the security of their business.

61% of business owners are also confident of maintaining their personal income in the next three months.

Longer-term, 88% are confident or hopeful they can restore or improve turnover levels in the next 12 months, although only 34% are confident about the longer-term security of all of their local business community.

Small business is the lifeblood of local communities and of jobs, so supporting local has never been more important, Marian O'Gorman, the founder of Champion Green, said.

"More than two-thirds of people in Ireland are employed by SMEs and the sector generates 46% of all private sector turnover. Social provision depends on a strong economy, and the best way to help economic recovery is to get back out and into local businesses," Marian O'Gorman said.

Today's survey also shows that restoring turnover levels is the biggest personal challenge facing SME owners in the next six months, while Covid and further lockdowns and the influence of Brexit are seen as the biggest external challenges.

For small business owners, 55% say increased financial support of local business is key for driving renewal.

Consumer advertising and information on the importance of supporting local business is key to growing local support, almost two-thirds also said.

For office-based SMEs, 66% say a return to the office is important, or very important, for the future of their business.

A similar 64% believe the mental health of their employees is enhanced by a return to office-based working.

The recent business survey marks the anniversary of the launch of Champion Green a year ago.

The scheme provides business advice and marketing support to SMEs and highlights how consumers can make a difference in driving the recovery of small business.

It is supported by Kilkenny Design and Visa, in association with Retail Excellence, Small Firms Association and Chambers of Commerce Ireland.

Plans for Champion Green this year include a dedicated Champion Green loyalBe loyalty app for locally produced goods and a National Champion Green Week in September to encourage and reward consumer support for local brands and businesses.

The initiative is backed by a €1m investment to drive consumer support for local enterprise and to help SMEs adapt business.