Retailers call for emergency law to tackle insurance costs

Retail Excellence, which represents 2,000 companies, publishes election manifesto

Retail Excellence said that a ‘degree of vulnerability’ continues to exist in the sector.

Retail Excellence said that a ‘degree of vulnerability’ continues to exist in the sector.

 

Retailers have called for a reduction in VAT and the introduction of emergency legislation to tackle rising insurance costs as part of a series of appeals to political parties ahead of the general election.

Retail Excellence, which represents almost 2,000 companies employing 130,000 people directly, published its pre-election manifesto on Monday.

Among the appeals is a reduction in the “regressive VAT rate” of 23 per cent. “The standard rate of VAT is one of the highest in the world,” it said. “Introduced as a temporary response to the financial crisis, the 23 per cent rate is damaging demand and must be reduced to 20 per cent.”

On insurance, retailers said emergency legislation was needed to “immediately tackle rising insurance costs in Ireland, which are proving prohibitive for many Irish retailers and will cause loss of economic opportunity and closure of some businesses”.

In particular, it called for funding for the establishment of an independent appeals body for decisions of the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB). This body would be designed to determine the fairness of awards or otherwise from the PIAB.

“This will greatly reduce the financial, resource and time cost incurred by retailers in fighting claims in court, whilst safeguarding the plaintiff’s constitutional right to justice, who would be entitled to judicially review the decision of the appeals board,” it said.

Elsewhere, it said the next government should “raise the exit rate from lower tax band per annum per individual”.

“The fact that much overtime and bonuses are subject to high-income tax acts as a disincentive to productivity and meaningful participation of employees,” it added.

Brexit

Ahead of Brexit, the group appealed for the introduction of a “strategic retail fund” to help Irish retailers “stave off the worst excesses of Brexit”, as well as the introduction of a business focused bank where half of its balance-sheet lending is targeted at SMEs.

On the political side, Retail Excellence said the creation of a full cabinet minister for retail would provide a “balanced focus on rural and urban issues, provide a coordinating function with other government departments”.

After wages, rent was highlighted as the next largest cost for many businesses.

“Retailers are crippled with legacy leases which were signed up to during the Celtic Tiger era, a time of limited retail availability and high rents when upward only rent reviews were the norm,” said the manifesto.

“Therefore, retrospective legislation must be introduced to address this issue before more retailers close up shop.”

Generally, the group said the “overwhelming picture being consistently painted since mid-2019 is that a degree of vulnerability continues to exist”.

“While figures might be marginally up, this has occurred at the expense of intensive marketing campaigns undertaken by retailers and consequentially reduced margins.

“And outside of the main urban cities around Ireland – Cork, Limerick and Galway – many retailers in towns and villages are facing significant challenges in sustaining their businesses.”