Minister for Retail to the rescue
When the new coalition government finally formed, West Meath TD Damien English TD was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses on July 2.Still relatively new to the post of Minister English has had to hit the ground running. He tells IFCR what his vision for retail and recovery is in this unprecedently difficult time for retailers in Ireland.
“I am fortunate to have served as Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation in the Department previously from 2014 to 2016. During this time, I built up a good working relationship with the representative bodies from the various business sectors in Ireland, including retail, as well as the hard-working officials in the Department. This helped me to hit the ground running in my new role as Minister for Business, Employment and Retail,” he said.
“This experience ensured I could get stuck in straight away and work with the many sectors who have been fighting to survive through the Covid-19 global pandemic. My early impression is that the Department and business knuckled down over the past six months and forged a stronger partnership in working together. I am keen to develop this partnership approach to ensure the economy not only survives Covid but once again grows to create new job opportunities and allow businesses to thrive”
Minister English is Chairperson of the Retail Forum and has already engaged extensively with the retail sector. “I am keenly aware of the critical role that the sector plays in contributing to the Irish economy. It is the largest private sector employer in Ireland. Through my initial engagement with the Retail Forum I’ve seen strong evidence of how the sector is working hard, to not only trade through the global pandemic, but to emerge to recovery – stronger than before.
“Since I took up post, I have worked with the Retail Forum to listen to their contributions for the July Jobs Stimulus package and launch the second call of the COVID-Online Retail Scheme. I will continue to engage with the Forum, and the Forum members on a bilateral basis, to seek their sectoral input for the forthcoming National Economic Plan”.
Minister English has considered priorities for Irish business, innovation and retailers.“The COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit are posing significant challenges for business and it is vital that businesses develop their resilience in the face of these challenges. For many retailers, developing their digital capability and enhancing their physical retail offering with a strong online presence will support them to become more resilient. The scaling up of their online offering to complement their physical outlets has been a long-term goal for the retail sector prior to the pandemic. This goal has been accelerated due to the pandemic, and I want to see this digital development of the sector continue,” he explained. “As Minister, I am determined to support that ambition and assist our retailers to increase their digital presence and boost online sales allowing them to target new and existing customers and shoppers in the online space.
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