The scale of disturbance faced by the retail sector since the beginning of March 2020 is hard to overemphasise. All shops, save for those deemed essential, were forced to shut their doors for months and then when they were eventually allowed to reopen, have had to limit the numbers who could come through their doors. When the world first woke to news of the Covid-19 Pandemic , many businesses were ill-equipped to deal with the new restrictions and immediate shutdowns. As guidelines have been established for restaurants, retail stores, theaters and other businesses, many companies have found innovative ways to cope.
As lockdowns became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly moved online, providing and purchasing more goods and services online, raising e-commerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020.
Some businesses, which previously had a very limited online presence or no online presence at all, are now finally seizing this digital opportunity. Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Damien English, announced on the 30th of June this year the successful applicants approved for funding through the third call of the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme, which is provided by Enterprise Ireland. 133 retailers have been approved €5m in funding as part of this scheme. The scheme is said to be targeted at retailers who already have an online presence and to aid them in strengthening their online offering and enable them to reach a wider customer base moving forward.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Maeve Dennehy, owner of ‘Love Cherish’ Boutique in Charleville to discuss how she has adapted her business during the Pandemic. For Maeve this move seems to have been a successful transition with the business relocating to both a bigger shop and warehouse over the last 18 months.
Prioritising digital skills training and internet infrastructure upgrades in smaller towns and regions of high-growth potential will help SMEs, citizens, and wider communities back to their feet and set them up for future growth.
In the long term, digital has the power to help rejuvenate Ireland’s ailing main streets, keep local talent in the community, and open up stagnating or isolated areas to larger markets. It seems that online shopping in Ireland is here to stay.