Supporting Local News

Retailers seek support to combat spiralling costs

Waiving commercial rates this year is essential to ensure the survival of businesses struggling to cough up for energy costs and recruit and retain staff, the head of the biggest business group in Galway believes.

The CEO of the Galway Chamber of Commerce, Kenny Deery, said there needs to be more support for businesses who may not qualify for the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme.

This scheme is aimed at businesses involving in a trade or profession whicj can prove their energy bills have increased by at least 50 per cent between September 2022 and February 2023 compared with an average unit price for the same period a year before.

Qualifying businesses will be able to claim a cash payment equal to 40 per cent of the increased energy costs, with a monthly payment of up to €10,000 claimable – or €30,000 if the business is located in more than once place.

Mr Deery said businesses supported by Enterprise Ireland are also eligible for other significant grants. But small business owners in retail and hospitality may not qualify for anything as large,

It is essential they receive support to get through this tough winter.

“Businesses that have survived these years deserve to be praised how they got through and now need further support and a greater form of protection to ensure they get through this next period,” he insisted.

“Rates are a big outlay for High Street businesses and the waiver during Covid was one of the greatest aids made available. That would be a very effective, swift, clean tool that could be used again instead of a complicated grant funding scheme.

“They weren’t waiting on money, they just didn’t pay it. The Department could then fund the local authority what they missed out on. Coffee shops, restaurants, retailers pay out €20,000, €30,000, €35,000 on rates – not paying it could be the difference between staying open and shutting up.”

The fact that manufacturing and the med-tech sectors are continuing to perform well in Galway is a positive for Galway retailers and the service industry, who will be concentrated on protecting cash flow until Easter and the start of the new tourist season.

“Overall, there is positivity but costs is the huge variable. The costs of retaining talent, the cost of energy – manufacturing may be able to take the hit but other businesses have already dipped into their reserves.”

Positivity is the one word mentioned several times by Ballinasloe business owner Maureen Calahan, who has run a jewellery shop that also sells sports awards for just shy of a half century.

There was brisk trading up to Christmas – the frost proved to be good news for many local traders as shoppers stayed at home rather than travelling to nearby towns or cities.

“People were very happy to support local shops. In fact, I got the opportunity to do some bespoke jewellery for people who wanted to stay local. I have a good customer base, they know I shoot straight from the hip, they trust me and I trust them,” she revealed.

She believes the higher energy costs will entice retailers to seek better prices and products to ensure they keep customers.

“I’m very positive about 2023 if we retailers put in the work to find the right suppliers and keen prices which we can pass on.

“I don’t increase prices on stock I have. When new stock comes in, I may have to put them up but I’ll keep it tight.”

Customers this year were not complaining about price and instead were happy to fork out for items on a “reasonable to upper bracket budget”, reveals the businesswoman.

“I think people realise in the last two years that they want to spend it, treat each other, remember anniversaries and birthdays. Money didn’t buy us health in the last two years. They’re enjoying [money] much better.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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