Today we held our briefing with Damien English TD, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail and Duncan Graham, Managing Director, Retail Excellence Ireland. We would firstly like to thank Minister English and Duncan Graham for meeting with us today and to all those in attendance.
The purpose of this briefing was to discuss how Businesses across County Wexford could be supported in the months ahead and the Government plans for current and future support schemes.
Minster English started off by thanking businesses community and retail sector for their resilience over the past year and praised their response to all the difficult challenges that they faced due to Covid-19. The Minister went on to discuss the supports and grants available such as the Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC) and the Microenterprise assistance scheme.
During his speech, Minister English also recognised that for many sectors there needs to be ongoing supports. Minister English acknowledged that the grants and schemes have been adapted to be more inclusive and this response was based upon feedback that the Government received from the Chamber on behalf of businesses over the past year. The Minister stated that the Government does recognise that the grants and schemes created do not replace all the costs and lost turnover for businesses, but they are there to assist businesses and to try help as many businesses as possible to survive until they go to the reopening phase.
Following on from Minister English, Duncan Graham from Managing Director, Retail Excellence Ireland provided us with a terrific presentation. Duncan discussed the impact of Covid on the retail sector and the current trend of online shopping that grew during the pandemic. He also touched upon the current recruitment issue that retailers are facing as many people have taken on roles in other industries or gone back to education during the pandemic. This is an area that Retail Excellence Ireland and the Government will be working closely on as reopening continues.
Duncan also mentioned that Retail Excellence Ireland have been focusing on the renting issue that retailers are currently having as he explained that many retailers have been struggling with rent bills over the past year and are carrying debt forward into 2021.
Another important area that Duncan covered is how retailers should focus on providing an experience to their customers to attract people to their towns and shops and examples of businesses who are currently doing so. Duncan discussed the idea of creating ‘phygital’ shopping environments for customers. This means a mix between physical shopping and ecommerce not competing but working together by taking the best aspects from each both the physical and online environments to create a complete and satisfying customer experience.
After both Minster English and Duncan Graham gave their discussions, the floor was opened for a Q&A session. All questions were addressed, and the briefing was adjourned. We would like to thank everyone who attended the briefing and reassure anyone who missed the briefing that it was recorded, and the recording is available on our YouTube page Here.