Irish retailers need a way to lure shoppers back – but next spring would be the best time
Retailers in the Republic say they need an incentive to attract shoppers back – although the best time to do it might be next spring.
According to retail sector body Retail Excellence, retailers are expecting to face a tough period next April when government support is lifted and will be pressing for a scheme that will allow the sector to come back strongly.
Managing director Duncan Graham told IF&CR that retail bounced back in the early summer, particularly in shopping centres and provincial towns, but not so much in shopping cities such as Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Galway.
“I think we’re now clearly into a better place moving towards Christmas than we were last year and the expectation is that we will have a pretty good Christmas,” he said.
“November this year is much more normal and we don’t expect any future disruption between now and the end of the Christmas period. There’s a lot more certainty now than there was a year ago but we’re clearly still living through a difficult time. Wearing masks in retail settings is still mandatory and there is clearly still a huge degree of infection still around the country and still a lot of caution in terms of the public.”
Sectors that are seeing a good bounceback pre-Christmas include clothing retailers, gift businesses, homeware business and book stores, he says.
“In terms of the food industry, grocery performed very well last year because of the fact that restaurants were closed, so grocery levels are back to where they traditionally have been,” Mr Graham says.
However, Dublin City Centre continues to be hard hit, with footfall down by around 20% since 2019, he warns.
Retailers had mooted putting in place measures similar to the Spend Local scheme in Northern Ireland where all adults have received a pre-paid card to the value of £100 to boost spending on the high street, but have been rebuffed.
“It’s something we had asked our government to consider for shoppers in the Republic, but it’s not something that they are going to do at this moment in time. I do believe it remains an option,” Mr Graham says.
“We have concerns for retailers for next year. Government support will remain into the spring but our concern is around what’s going to happen after April when the government support is lifted. How much will that impact on the sector?
“I do think it will be a tough time at the back end of spring into the summer next year and there will be a need to get people out shopping at that point. We need to see retail coming back strongly next year in order for businesses to survive.”