ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, has demanded stronger government action to combat illegal trading in the black economy as retail sales continue to stagnate. Reacting to the latest Retail Sales figures issued by the CSO last week, the Association pointed to the continuing decline in legitimate sales, contrasted to the surge in black market activity across a range of products from cigarettes to diesel.
The February Retail Sales figures show a slight 0.3% increase in monthly sales, while annual figures remain static.
Commenting, ISME Chief Executive, Mark Fielding stated, “smaller retail outlets are much more affected by illicit trade than the multiples, with less footfall, loss of sales and margin threatening their very existence and the jobs involved. The Government’s latest Action Plan for Jobs will be a total waste, if immediate action is not taken to stop the increase in illegitimate trade. We have already lost 50,000 jobs in the retail sector and a further 40,000 are currently in jeopardy as a result of the twin threats of reduced consumer spending and shadow economy activities”.
The Association has called for the introduction of an awareness campaign to communicate the issues and highlight the negative effect of black market activity on legitimate business, the economy, jobs and society. They have also called for an increase in judicial penalties on conviction of illegal trading and the introduction of a Code of Practice with an ombudsman for the sector.
“Small and medium, owner managed, retailers and wholesalers must be protected, promoted and prioritised in the fight to save their 250,000 jobs. The immediate introducing of the long awaited Retail Strategy Group would show some real action”, concluded Fielding.