Move to Level 4 would have ‘devastating effect’ on retailers

Shops warn of permanent damage to the sector with tens of thousands of jobs at stake

Retailers argue that losing at this time will seriously curtail the Christmas shopping season.

Retailers argue that losing at this time will seriously curtail the Christmas shopping season.

 

A forced closure of non-essential retail at this time of year would do “permanent and serious damage” to the Irish non-food retail sector costing an additional 60,000 jobs, according to Retail Excellence.

The group has more than 2,200 retail company members with over 13,000 stores in Ireland.

The Government is expected to agree to “Level 4-plus” restrictions for the entire country for a period of three to four weeks at a specially convened Cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon.

Retail Excellence that any move to Level 4 or above will have a “devastating impact” on the retail industry, particularly smaller retailers not yet trading online. “We cannot shut down the industry at this time of the year,” it said.

“All retail should be classed as essential especially. We cannot simply kill off Christmas. Retailers in Northern Ireland and across Europe remain open despite higher infection rates.

“A further 60,000 jobs are at risk in addition to the 30,000 that have already been lost in the industry.”

The group said retailers have strictly followed Government advice and guidelines and invested heavily to ensure their premises are safe since the onset of the pandemic. The numbers of cases linked to retail are “minimal”.

“Closing at this time will seriously curtail the Christmas shopping season,” it continued.

“There will be a huge surge in online shopping this year. We know that 70 per cent of the spend online goes to overseas based retailers and we urge shoppers that are going online to go to Irish websites and shop local.”

Meanwhile, Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the Irish retail sector, said any move to close down retail deemed “non-essential” would be a massive blow to the sector.

A nationwide move to Level 4 or 5 would involve the closure of thousands of retail businesses, with tens of thousands of retail staff out of work, it argued.

“While government supports are in place for affected businesses, those without a developed online offering will particularly struggle,” it said.

“Many retailers around the country are relying on the Christmas trading period to stay in business.”

Retail Ireland director Arnold Dillon said: “No other European country is actively looking at the level of nationwide retail restrictions currently being considered for Ireland.

“The retail sector has radically transformed how it operates, with face masks, social distancing and other hygiene measure, to ensure a safe and highly controlled environment for customers and staff.

“With only a fraction of Covid clusters linked to retail settings, it is crucial that policy makers set out the risk assessment that has informed this decision and a strategy for unwinding any measures introduced.

“Covid is going to be with us for some time and customers need ready access to the products they require on a regular basis.”