• Disastrous trading environment despite slight increase in December sales.
ISME, Wednesday 28th January 2015
ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprise Association, reacting to the latest Retail Sales figures released by the CSO today (28th January), called on Government to prioritise the revitalisation of the struggling retail sector. The Association warned of a challenging year ahead for retailers, with low consumer confidence set to continue while the labour intensive sector is endeavouring to overcome uncompetitive costs and is ignored by our election focused politicians.
Year on year retail sales figures showed an increase of 5.1% in volume and 2.3% in value. When the motor trade is excluded, sales were 4.8% higher in volume and 1.7% in value compared with 2013, clearly showing a continued downward pressure on prices and margins.
According to ISME CEO, Mark Fielding, “Christmas sales improved but not to the levels predicted by the ‘big retailer’ associations and less than hoped for by SMEs, to salvage a very difficult year. The recovery has yet to be felt by our domestic retailers and jobs continue to be at risk in this sector. This Government seems to be too busy focusing on the upcoming election to consider the problems being faced by local shops and communities and town centres, which will suffer as a result.”
“The Government has also stated that exports will remain the only significant source of positive momentum in the economy over the next year, and safeguarding and expanding the economy’s export base will remain a critically important objective of official policy. Because of this our traditional indigenous businesses are being neglected, despite their huge contribution to the local economy and jobs.”
The main issues facing retailers are:
• Excessive retail business costs such as commercial rates, development contributions and charges.
• The surge in Shadow Economy.
• The need for a Code of Practice, with an ombudsman for the sector.
• A review of the effect of the abolition of the Groceries Order on prices.
• Town centre revitalisation.
• Social welfare anomalies and inflexibilities.
• The lack of bank credit availability for retail SMEs.
• Sector specific training.
“We must have complementary policies for domestic and export focused sectors. The priority in the retail sector needs to be on saving the 250,000 jobs therein. A failure to take action now will lead to the outright decimation of the sector, a major contributor to economic growth and jobs” concluded Fielding.