VAT's the problem for Irish craft industry


VAT decreases on Irish tourism products should be extended to the craft and design industry to help support and grow exports in the sector, the chief executive of the Craft Council of Ireland said yesterday.

Karen Hennessy was speaking at Showcase 2013, a creative expo featuring 435 exhibitors from the Irish craft sector, which is taking place in the RDS in Dublin until Wednesday.

Ms Hennessy said there had been a 60 per cent increase in the number of buyers pre-registering for this year’s event and a 400 per cent increase in the number of UK pre-registrations. “Over these four days, we are estimating that about €20 million in sales orders will be placed and that’s not just significant to the craft sector, that’s significant in terms of Ireland Inc, in terms of the overall economy,” Ms Hennessy said.

More support

She said more needed to be done to support the sector, which employs about 5,770 people and contributes about €498 million to the Irish economy annually. “The cost of doing business is something we have to get right . . . because that’s what’s going to set us up for exports,” she said, adding that the cost of energy alone was “crippling” to small craft businesses and that a reduction of VAT would have huge benefits for the craft and design sector.

A huge variety of Irish craft and design products were on display yesterday including pottery, prints, clothing and jewellery. About 5,500 buyers are expected to attend the exhibition. By 5pm yesterday, about 2,000 buyers had come through the doors, 360 of whom were from overseas excluding the UK.

Among them were LL Bean designers Emily Wilson and Sarah Ellison who were on the hunt for “Irish fishermen sweaters”, which have made a comeback in the US.

‘Very impressed’

The designers said they were “very impressed” by the innovative designs, styling and materials on display. “The quality is beautiful . . . It’s a craft piece as opposed to commodity sweaters,” Ms Ellison said.

Ms Wilson said that, while Irish products were more expensive, they were also of high quality and design, and there were customers in the US, particularly on the east coast, who liked to buy products made in Ireland. “Our customers are definitely willing to pay for that, in terms of the quality and the make,” she said.

The Minister for Jobs and Enterprise, Richard Bruton, who opened the expo yesterday, said the Irish craft sector had huge potential.

“With the sector currently employing 6,000 people directly, there are good opportunities to grow employment further and increase the level of exports,” he said.