Ibec unveils Brexit strategy document

Once again, the looming threat of Brexit has the industry worried
Once again, the looming threat of Brexit has the industry worried

For almost a year, Ibec group Retail Ireland (and others) have been making regular noise about the importance of a plan for Irish businesses ahead of Brexit. In that vein, its latest strategy report highlights the ongoing need to secure consumer confidence and maintain competitiveness.

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23 March 2017 | 0

Since the Brexit debacle began almost a year ago, 92% of retailers in Ireland have reported the political situation as having a negative impact on their business. In the face of this challenge, Retail Ireland has published a strategy document proposing a major investment in people, skills, store refurbishments and technology, with a view to addressing the threats facing the industry.

As well as the uncertain road ahead following Brexit, businesses are also facing the challenge of online migration, as more and more shoppers seek bargains online rather than on the high street.

“Shaping the Future of Irish Retail – a strategy for Irish retail 2017 – 2020” is a strategy document incorporating the views and sentiments from across the “retail ecosystem” including retailers, policy makers, employees and consumers.

Among its main points, the report points out that retail has yet to catch up with other industries in terms of recovery, and so coordinated effort will be required to safeguard its competitiveness. Brexit is already affecting retail businesses, with growth in the years mentioned likely to average 1.2% to 2.2% per annum.

However, despite the existing challenges, consumer confidence is high in Ireland, as is that among retailers; a majority of those surveyed have ambitions to expand their businesses in the next three years.

Strategy is not solution, however. Retail Ireland took the opportunity to once again call on the government to support the sector in order to achieve the aims it set out. This includes:

  • Centralised support for retail sector from government
  • Tax credits for Irish retailers to compete with international online stores
  • Work to increase disposable income among consumers
  • Reduce cost of regulatory compliance
  • Increased support for retail training and education
  • Regenerate Ireland’s high streets and town centres.

Retail Ireland’s chairman, and MD of Eason Group, Conor Whelan said that the sector is currently undergoing a structural shift. “Our report shows that Irish retailers are optimistic, despite a considerable softening of sentiment,” Whelan. “By embracing new technology and in-store experiences, they are showing a great deal of adaptability in response to shifting consumer demand, and transitioning towards an “omni-channel” offering for shoppers.

“This will be critical in the coming years as increasing numbers of shoppers migrate online,” he said.

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