11th July 2016
Minister Mitchell O’Connor (today) chaired the quarterly meeting of the Retail Consultation Forum.
The Retail Consultation Forum was established in 2014 as a response to the challenges experienced by the sector during the recession. It provides a space for engagement between the sector and Government bodies to identify practical actions which could be taken by Government, or by industry itself, to support the sector. Membership includes the main retail representative bodies, retailers themselves and representatives from relevant Government departments and public bodies.
Following the meeting Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “I am delighted to chair the Retail Consultation Forum. The retail sector plays a vital role in the Irish economy, supporting jobs in every city, town and village in the country. A vibrant retail sector supports vibrant communities and helps to make a place attractive to live in, invest in and to visit. Supporting communities, towns and villages across the country and delivering local jobs is a key priority for this Government. The Forum promotes positive engagement between public sector stakeholders and the retail sector and I believe it has a key role to play in support of a sustainable recovery in the retail sector across the whole country.”
The retail and wholesale sector is the largest private sector employer in the country, employing almost 275,000 people, 12.5% of the workforce. The retail sector suffered greatly in the recession, losing 50,000 jobs between 2008 and 2012. The sector has been showing steady recovery since 2014. With improving consumer confidence and the positive impact of Budget measures, sales values and volumes have been slowly and steadily increasing, as have employment figures.
In response to concerns raised at the Retail Forum about the result of the EU-UK referendum Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “I understand the concerns that the retail sector has with regard to the uncertainty resulting from the outcome of the British referendum. The Irish Government is committed to working with the UK and other EU colleagues to minimise any negative impact of the British referendum. We are committed to supporting Irish businesses in this period of heightened uncertainty. The Irish economy is strong, and I believe the key sectors of our economy, including the retail sector, are well positioned to meet the challenges of future months.
Three Working Groups are examining issues such as energy costs for the retail sector, the digital economy and town centre revival and a fourth Working Group was announced at today’s meeting to address the skills challenges faced by the sector. Initiatives that the Groups are examining include a pilot Energy Efficiency Training Programme for the sector and a Framework for Town Centre Revival.
The Minister had a key message for the members of the Retail Consultation Forum “I listened very closely to the challenges of the retail sector voiced at today’s meeting. A lot of work has been done by the members in the working groups to find ways to address the challenges. Finding ways to solve problems together is essential. I encourage all members of the Forum to continue to work towards greater collaboration and a common goal of sustainable employment growth in the retail sector”.
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