John McDonald, publisher of ShelfLife, appeals to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, not to make changes to the Retail Planning Guidelines, which he feels will put small retail businesses in jeopardy
Oct 19 2011
Dear Minister Bruton,
There are a busy few weeks ahead. We all know that the Troika is in town to check on progress, and that you are busy with the upcoming budget. We would like to point out that among all this excitement, you have a really big choice to make in terms of the retail sector.
Do you bow once again to the ever expanding power of the multinationals and allow the currently unregulated grocery market to be devoured by massive international corporations who will take all they can from our consumers and repatriate the profits to their homelands; or do you consider the true value of the entrepreneurial retailer and for once, favour the Irish owned, Irish operated business and give them an opportunity to thrive on a level playing pitch?
We understand, Minister, that when you turn to the Competition Authority and ask them would it be a good idea to introduce a market share cap, that they will tell you that nobody is in a dominant position. “Oh, somebody would have to have a much larger share than the current incumbents” they will say. Maybe it is time to rethink the meaning of “dominant position” and “abuse of market”. Surely it would be wiser to consider the ability of a company to interfere in an existing market and put its small, privately owned competitors out of business than to measure the amount of market share that they control?
If a retail operator wants to increase share in any category by reducing prices and holding them down till the opposition are all out of business there are only temporary benefits for the consumer. Temporary, and ultimately negative, as the retail operator left in the now less crowded market will then harden prices again having removed the competition.
This ability to interfere in the market is a factor of access to funds, not market share. There is a clear example in Kerry of a large retailer opening a massive petrol forecourt. Initially it was the cheapest petrol around. Consumers benefitted from the cheap petrol and 14 smaller filling stations in the catchment area closed down. You won’t be surprised to hear that the petrol at this massive forecourt is now back up at normal retail levels. There is a real lesson here. A cap on market share for the grocery retail trade must now be considered.
Minister, why not make a big effort in the coming months to support those small independent businesses that provide local employment and play a large roll in their local communities. Don’t give in to the Troika on the changes they are seeking to the Retail Planning Guidelines. Keep the cap on store size in place and consider implementing a market share cap as well. Do it, and send that small message to our retailers that actually you understand their precarious, underfunded position and that you support them.
If you support the sentiment in this letter please email the minister at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and copy me email@example.com
Would we be better off without a domestic cheese industry or without the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland? Most quangos are criticised for their lack of activity, but now we have a quango that could be about to do massive brand damage to one of our key domestic industries. Maybe you heard it and thought it was a joke, but in seeking to protect children from junk-food advertising the BAI are on the cusp of rating Diet Coca Cola as more nutritionally sound than cheese.
Can you imagine the international ridicule; the domestic confusion; not to mention the potential drop in sales with its knock on effect all the way through the economic chain. Remember, Irish cheese is made from milk that comes from Irish farmers’ cows and is processed and packaged at plants owned and operated by Irish companies providing Irish jobs. It is the definition of “indigenous” and must be protected at all costs.
The cheese industry makes a valuable product that people want to buy and eat; a product that provides nutrition to people of all ages; a product that contributes to the prosperity of the nation. As a keen supporter of the Irish food industry, I am stunned by the fact that this issue has even been brought into the public domain. To the BAI, all I can say is “You know what to do!”