Reopening retailers seek bailout package including rates waiver

Retail Excellence industry group also wants grants equal to 60% of rent to aid in Covid-19 recovery

Jones’ Garden Centre in Donabate, Co Dublin, with modifications in place ahead of reopening to the public on Monday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Jones’ Garden Centre in Donabate, Co Dublin, with modifications in place ahead of reopening to the public on Monday. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Retailers want local council rates waived for a year and grants equal to 60 per cent of commercial rent to aid their recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The call from industry group Retail Excellence comes as businesses, including garden centres, optometrists, DIY stores, electrical goods suppliers and others prepare to reopen on Monday after almost two months.

Retail Excellence wants the Government to waive local authority rates for 12 months, give grants equal to 60 per cent of commercial rents for the period of the emergency, offer zero per cent loans for all impacted businesses as well as putting in place a Covid-19 compensation scheme.

Rachel Doyle, founder of the Arboretum Garden Heaven centres in counties Carlow and Wicklow, welcomed the move to reopen business.

“It feels good to be able to reopen our doors today and we have put a huge effort in to be ready,” she said. But she said that Government had a responsibility to take the steps needed to rebuild confidence in the economy.

“Businesses like Arboretum, family-run SMEs, are at the core of the community and there is responsibility for Government to take the decisive bold measures required to rebuild confidence in our local economy,” she said. “We have a long journey ahead of us and, with the correct Government supports and our willingness to survive, we will get there.”

First step

Retail Excellence chief executive David Fitzsimons said that Monday marked the first step on the road to recovery. He pointed out that retailers had ensured that they could reopen safely for customers and workers.

He called on shoppers to support local independent stores. “Please use them as we don’t want to lose them,” he said.

Paul Candon, chairman of Homevalue Group, said the DIY chain looked forward to reopening its 140 stores.

“In preparation we have taken great care and made significant investment to ensure we are following guidance provided by the Government and reopening in a safe and responsible way,” he added.

Sean McCrave, chief executive of the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), said opticians were looking forward to reopening.

“AOI is encouraging all practices to carefully follow safety guidelines to protect people, to ensure that we avoid any further lockdown period,” he said.

Retailers reopening on Monday have taken steps such as putting up Perspex screens at tills, installing hand sanitisers for customers and staff, controlling entry and exit to their premises to allow for social distancing, and where required providing personal protective equipment for employees.

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