Lack of reliable broadband stalling retail recovery.
Rising Business costs still a major cause for concern.
At the release of the latest Retail Sales figures by the CSO for September, ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, cautioned against the excessive optimism and enthusiastic cheerleading from some quarters. While consumers do seem to be more confident there is still a long way to go as we are at least 15% below pre-crash figures. The Association called on Government to address the increasing cost burden on retailers, in insurance, rents and local charges, to ensure the continued employment of the 275,000 in the sector.
The September retail sales figures show an increase of 0.3% in volume and a decrease of -0.1% in value in the month, sales are up 4.9% in value in the year. However, when motor sales are excluded volume was up 0.7% and value down by -0.1% in the month.
According to ISME CEO, Mark Fielding, "The Budget did little specifically for the Retail trade. The 6% increase in the National Minimum Wage will further increase the cost base and act as a disincentive to new jobs. Despite the assurances on repercussive claims, the fact is that any increase in the minimum wage will have a knock-on effect and put increasing pressure on employers."
"The recent ISME Trends Survey found that retailers were less confident about their business expectations and this was reflected in the reduction in current and future investment projects in the sector. Six of the ten Retail Indicators were down on the previous quarter, clearly demonstrating that many SME retailers continue to struggle, despite the positive economic updates from Government and the attendant cheerleading from others".
"Government must re-double its efforts in retail training supports and the adoption of retail e-commerce solutions. The Association is calling for an increase in scope of the Online Trading Voucher scheme. The world of e-tailing is becoming vitally important to retail businesses in particular, and most Irish retailers are now already behind the curve when it comes to establishing an online presence. However no amount of vouchers will compensate for the third world broadband infrastructure across the country, which must be a priority."
The Association called for the:
Government action on commercial rates, unrealistic rents and uncompetitive labour costs and insurance.
Extension of the Online Voucher scheme to all SME retailers.
Speed-up the roll out of Broadband.
"The benefits of on-line trading for retail are self-evident. Government needs to prioritise this issue immediately. The inadequate broadband is resulting in the vast majority of businesses missing out on the e-commerce and export opportunities, worth billions," concluded Fielding.