‘Don’t kill Christmas’ — retailers’ plea to Government ahead of new restrictions
Report by economist Jim Power warns 45,000 retail jobs will be lost permanently under levels 4 and 5 while billions of euro could be lost from Irish shops
RETAILERS have written to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar strongly urging them to keep non-essential shops open in the run up to Christmas.
Closing shops over the next number of weeks would permanently shut down an unprecedented number of retailers, representative body Retail Excellence wrote. Concerns deepened in recent days as recommendations for further restrictions nationally were made to Government amid rising cases of Covid-19.
Duncan Graham, managing director of Retail Excellence called for all retail to be classed as essential at this time of the year and urged the Government not to kill off Christmas. “We can’t simply cancel Christmas,” he said.
A report being prepared for the organisation by economist Jim Power forecasts that tens of thousands of retail jobs would go if shops such as fashion, jewellery, giftware and book stores are forced to close during the busiest times of the year.
Under level 4 and 5 restrictions only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies are allowed to remain open.
Power told the Sunday Independent that around €27bn is spent on non-grocery retail and that 70pc of turnover and profits are generated over five months in the run up to Christmas and January sales.
During the first lockdown, over 90,000 retail workers were on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). That was down to 30,500 last week. “If non-essential retail is forced to close, you are talking about at least another 60,000 workers being displaced. So a massive job shock. I would suspect that at least half of those would be gone permanently.
“Non-essential retail is struggling quite badly and hasn’t quite recovered since re-opening. Massive, massive pain has been felt.”
He said 10,000 temporary part-time staff — mainly younger workers — who would be taken on for Christmas would also be hit.
Power predicted that Christmas shopping would be driven online. Some 70pc of online shopping goes to sites outside Ireland, so shops here could miss out on billions of euro which would normally be spent in shops in towns and cities across the country.
The letter from Retail Excellence said: “The impact upon business owners, retail staff and the wider economy will be at a level previously unimaginable.
“The importance of Quarter 4 and Christmas is of a level few other industries face.
“A successful Christmas allows retailers to survive and to reopen in January. Retail exists against an ever-challenging backdrop of closures every January should Christmas not allow them to deliver sufficient profits to sustain the first half of the following year.” The letter also said morale was extremely low.
“We ask you to support retail through Christmas and not to kill the industry as an unintended consequence of the fight against Covid.
“We cannot survive 2020 without government helping us through the period of the year that either helps us survive or to shut our doors, never to reopen.”
Graham said closing shops for six weeks would mean retail would be closed until the end of November. “There would be a huge surge in online and we urge those who do go online to shop local.”
He said that retailers have abided by guidelines from Government, ensuring that the Covid numbers linked to retail have been minimal.
Graham also expressed concern about the difference between restrictions in the Border counties, some of which were put on level 4 last week, and Northern Ireland where non essential stores remain open.
Shoppers thronging Dublin’s Grafton Street in the days running up to Christmas in pre-covid times — a period that generates 70pc of profits for retailers outside the grocery sector