Calls for Govt not to cancel Christmas as retailers face possible closure under new restrictions

Calls for Govt not to cancel Christmas as retailers face possible closure under new restrictions

A number of retailers in Cork are at risk of having to close their doors following a decision on the move to further restrictions which is expected later today.

An "unprecedented" number of retailers in Cork are at risk of having to close their doors following a decision on the move to further restrictions which is expected later today.

A not for profit company which supports Irish retailers has asked the Government to think about the 280,000 people employed in the retail industry ahead of today’s expected decision.

Retail Excellence has said there is “a huge level of anxiety” among those 280,000 employees and employers at what the week ahead holds.

The largest retail industry trade body in the country, Retail Excellence involves 2,000 leading retail companies who operate in the Irish market.

 With increased Covid-19 restrictions on the way people were out shopping for Christmas presents at Smyths Toys at the South Ring Retail Park on the Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
With increased Covid-19 restrictions on the way people were out shopping for Christmas presents at Smyths Toys at the South Ring Retail Park on the Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

In a letter to the Government, which has been publicly released, Retail Excellence addressed the worries of those employed in the “single largest employer in Ireland” ahead of the Christmas period.

“Typically 70% of retail profits are made in the Christmas period, with many retailers trading at a loss for 6 months or the year.

“A successful Christmas allows retailers to survive and to reopen in January. Retail exists against an ever-challenging backdrop of closures every January, should Christmas not allow them to deliver sufficient profits to sustain the first half of the following year,” the letter read.

Retail Excellence welcomed the support from Government in relation to online retail but said that typically, Irish retailers rely upon “a strong combination of bricks and mortar operations as they simply cannot compete on a level playing field with the might of offshore internet giants”.

Retailers across Cork and the rest of the country have poured a lot of time and money into putting measures in place and following protocols for safe trading during the current pandemic including signage, perspex screens, and hand sanitizer along with sanitizing stations.

Evanne O'Caoimh, owner of Unbound, preparing for the re-opening of the gift shop at Bridge Street, Cork back in June.
Evanne O'Caoimh, owner of Unbound, preparing for the re-opening of the gift shop at Bridge Street, Cork back in June.

Many others have been forced to let some staff members go in what has already been a tough year for the industry.

“Christmas is the essential season for retail as customers shop in stores they may only frequent once per year. We all know that even in the darkest days of recession we sought to keep Christmas special to acknowledge the huge importance of friends and family in our lives. Morale amongst retailers and staff is at an all-time low. The mood of the country is no different, but we all cling to the belief that Christmas may provide some respite, if only temporarily.

“Retailers are prepared for Christmas and for addressing Covid-19 within that. The retail industry has been exemplary in supporting government requests to manage Covid-19 protocols to date and invested heavily in measures,” the letter read.

“Please support our industry to survive and don’t cancel Christmas,” the company asked.

The Government is set to announce further Covid-19 restrictions for the whole country after a Cabinet meeting today.

Read the letter from Retail Excellence to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in full below.

Dear Tánaiste, 

Retail Excellence represents the backbone of retailers in Ireland, with over 2,000 retailers across the country. The retail industry is the single largest employer in Ireland, employing over 280,000 employees. We wish urgently to discuss the impact of any potential move to Level 4 or beyond on our industry. Such a move as outlined in existing documentation, permitting only “essential retail” will close an unprecedented amount of retailers, never to return to the market.

The impact upon business owners, retail staff and the wider economy will be at a level previously unimaginable.

The importance of a Quarter 4 and a Christmas is of a level few other industries face. Typically 70% of retail profits are made in the Christmas period, with many retailers trading at a loss for 6 months or the year. A successful Christmas allows retailers to survive and to reopen in January. Retail exists against an ever-challenging backdrop of closures every January, should Christmas not allow them to deliver sufficient profits to sustain the first half of the following year. 

This has been hugely impacted in recent years by the growth of online retailers outside the State, and by the likes of Amazon in particular. We welcome the government supports to online retail this year, but the reality is that typical Irish retailers will continue to rely upon a strong combination of bricks and mortar operations as they simply cannot compete on a level playing field with the might of offshore internet giants.

Christmas is the essential season for retail as customers shop in stores they may only frequent once per year. We all know that even in the darkest days of recession we sought to keep Christmas special to acknowledge the huge importance of friends and family in our lives. Morale amongst retailers and staff is at an all-time low. The mood of the country is no different, but we all cling to the belief that Christmas may provide some respite, if only temporarily.

We ask you to support retail though Christmas and not to devastate the industry as an unintended consequence of the fight against Covid-19.

This year more than ever Ireland needs vision from our leaders and a focal point to lift the gloom; of only for a moment in time. That is Christmas... the day and the surrounding season invoke emotions that literally last a lifetime. Almost no one in Ireland has ever experienced Christmas “cancelled”.

Retailers are prepared for Christmas and for addressing Covid-19 within that. The retail industry has been exemplary in supporting government requests to manage Covid-19 protocols to date and invested heavily in measures that only further eroded small margins but are acknowledged as essential to public health.

We have managed the (often incredibly raw) emotions of our members this year to ensure that we do not put any added pressure on the government in the fight against Covid-19, but we cannot survive 2020 without government helping us through the period of the year that either helps us survive or to shut our doors, never to reopen.

Please support our industry to survive and don’t cancel Christmas.

On behalf of Retail Excellence

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