Reacting to the latest Retail Sales figures issued by the CSO showing an annual decrease of 1.5%, ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, described the retail sector as wretched, outlining that thousands of jobs will continue to be at risk for the foreseeable future unless the Government intervenes to address issues impacting on the sector, particularly the rising costs to business.
According to ISME Chief Executive, Mark Fielding, “while there was a small monthly increase of 0.7%, more and more retailers are still finding it harder to make ends meet. One third of retailers expect further job losses as the negative trading environment persists. The latest figures clearly show how the lack of consumer confidence is crippling the sector”.
“The retail industry, with excess capacity, reduced consumer spend and rising government influenced costs has been attempting to adjust its cost base in the changed economic conditions. However the biggest costs to retailers, such as inequitable commercial rates, unrealistic rents and uncompetitive labour costs have remained stubbornly high. These costs, together with recent transport fuel increases continue to make life hell for SME retailers, who, due to pathetic government inaction, will result in more closures and job loses,” continued Fielding.
The Association has called for the immediate establishment of the long awaited Retail Strategy Group; Government action on commercial rates, unrealistic rents, uncompetitive labour costs and tax-laden transport costs and the reduction in the standard VAT rate.
“It is high time that the Government introduced pro-enterprise policies to ease the burden on SMEs and in particular the retail sector, one of the most significant contributors to the economy. We need the immediate formation of a Retail Strategy Group to address the risks to the sector, to tackle the cost base and help secure the 250,000 jobs in the Retail industry,” concluded Fielding.