Training and skills supports must be a priority for Government.
ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, at the release of the CSO Retail Sales figures for June today (28th July), called for more government action on town centre revitalisation, retail training supports, business cost reduction and an online trading campaign to combat a difficult time for the retail sector. The Association warned that the threat of increased wage costs, in whichever format, is having the effect of slowing an already fragile recovery and acting as a brake on retail plans.
The monthly figures show a decrease of 5.8% in volume and 3.4% in value. Year on year retail sales figures showed an increase of 5.3% in volume and 3.4% in value. When the motor trade is excluded, sales were 4.9% higher in volume and 2.5% in value compared with 2015.
ISME, CEO, Mark Fielding said, “Retailers are increasingly concerned at a continued rising cost base and the development of unrealistic wage expectations. Should we lose our competitive edge, jobs will not be created. Adding to the industry's challenges is a proliferation of discounts, which make it tougher for retailers to hold margins or record year-on-year sales increases”.
“On a more positive note, the continuing fall in unemployment and a rising population are very positive trends for retailers and should feed into stronger sales figures in the coming months as personal spending becomes more broad based. The drop in sterling should also help general margins, although retailers along the border are in for a torrid time and government needs to heed the warnings.”
The main issues facing retailers are:
Very low margins, as evidenced by the CSO figures.
Negative cross border trade.
Excessive retail business costs, rates, development charges, wages and insurance.
Town centre revitalisation.
Social welfare anomalies and inflexibilities.
Insufficient bank credit availability for retail SMEs.
The surge in the Black Economy.
Sector specific training.
“With our politicians setting off on ten weeks holidays, there is little hope of any new in initiatives from that quarter. As usual, retailers are left to fend for themselves - while politicians holiday, the retail sector struggles”, concluded Fielding.