Cork Business Association’s Chief Executive, Lawrence Owens has warned that there will be more business casualties in Cork if the right supports are not put in place to help businesses to recover.
It follows news of the closure of Debenhams, and that Oasis and Warehouse have gone into administration.
Mr Owens said that while “no-one has a crystal ball and knows where we are going and where Cork will be” that it is critical that supports are now put in place for businesses.
He said that these should include a moratorium on rates, rather than a deferral, as well as changes to water charges and VAT.
The CBA Chief said that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak would be felt for many years and stressed that businesses “need tangible, practical supports on a scale we have never seen before.”
“We simply don’t know what’s ahead, what I do know is a lot of businesses are ready and waiting to get back to business but need support to allow them to trade. It is time for practical, actual, realistic support. If we don’t do that, there will be more casualties,” he said.
Mr Owens said that the reality is that the city would have to change how it markets itself and encourages people to shop, stressing that things would not return to “normal” for some time.
“The fabric of any environment, any city will be dictated from a public health perspective,” Mr Owens said.
He added that when businesses do re-open it will be staggered.
“Social distancing will be part of our lives for a while. Public safety has to be number one.”
He said that the customer mindset will have changed and businesses will have to ensure the customer is “safe, looked after and protected.”
Cork Business Association is currently working on a campaign to encourage people to shop locally online, with businesses offering online shopping using the hashtag #shopcorkonline as part of efforts to support businesses adapting to the changed environment.
While Mr Owens said things have changed, he pointed to the fact that Cork has been “very resilient over the years” and has overcome serious problems in the past, stressing “we’re all in this together.”