The Retail Consultation Forum, chaired by the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation, is the main vehicle through which Government engages with the retail sector. Since 2014, the Forum has provided a platform for structured engagement between the retail sector and relevant Government Departments on key issues of concern relating to thedevelopment and performance of the sector in Ireland. The Forum meets ona quarterly basis.
Membership includes retail associations such as Retail Ireland, Retail Excellence, CSNA, RGDATA, other bodies such as ISME, SFA and Chambers Ireland, a number of retailers, the City and County Managers Association, and a number of relevant Government Departments. The Forum regularly discusses Brexit including the ongoing negotiations, research outputs, and information on supports and guidance available to retailers, to be shared with Forum members for dissemination to their own
members and networks. More recently, the Forum has focused on import related issues, including Revenue & Customs, arrangements at ports, andimportation of food products.
On 13 December 2018 the Minister convened a roundtable with key retail grocery and distribution players to discuss Brexit preparedness as part of her ongoing engagement with the sector. The central focus of engagement with the sector to date has been around business concerns and preparedness regarding potential supply-chain disruption and related issues, particularly given the now well established‘just-in-time’ model of supply from the UK.
The retail and wholesale sector is already availing of Brexit supportsavailable, including the Brexit Loan Scheme and will be eligible for the forthcoming Brexit Future Growth Scheme announced in Budget 2019. To build awareness of the supports available and where to access Government information, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published a retail sector specific version of the Building Stronger Business leaflet, which sets out in summary form the range of Brexit supports
available to all Retail businesses. The leaflet was launched at the September meeting of the Retail Consultation Forum and has been widely distributed, and is available on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s website.
An ongoing concern for retailers in Ireland, and raised in Forum discussions, has been the growth of online retailing/e-tailing, which has increasingly brought international competition to the local retailer doorstep. These concerns about competitiveness have heightened in the context of Brexit. In September, Minister Humphreys announced the introduction of a new pilot Online Retail Scheme in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland aimed at enhancing the strategic online capabilities of SME retailers with grants of up to €25,000, for e.g. having a fully transactional online presence and retailing online strategy. Successful applicants under the first call will be announcedin Q1 2019.
Retail (including online retail)
The Government is concerned that there is likely to be disruption to the supply chains of Irish-based retail businesses as a result of Brexit. The Dover-Calais bottleneck as outlined in the chapter on transport is likely to be a cause of such disruption. It is important, therefore, that business continue to make their own preparations for Brexit, such as by meeting their obligations in terms of new customs and other required registrations. The latter will play an important part in minimising potential disruption and delays at points of import, particularly at Dublin Port.
To minimise the disruption of Brexit and to mitigate its impact, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI), Enterprise Ireland (EI) and Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have put in place an array of supports and measures. These supports include Brexit scorecards and toolkits, the Brexit working capital Loan scheme, InterTradeIreland’s Brexit planning and implementation vouchers and various government, agency and customs awareness events.
DBEI has engaged with sector and representative groups through the Retail Consultation Forum since November 2016 on key emerging issues and is also engaging on the issues relating to on-line retail. In addition, DBEI has engaged with stakeholders through the following fora:
• On 13 December 2018, 24 January 2019, 19 February 2019 and 26 March 2019 the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation hosted meetings with key players from the Irish grocery retail and distribution sector, retail representative bodies and haulier representative bodies.
• The Minister has engaged with the CEOs of the three pillar banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, regarding the important role that the banking sector must play in helping Irish businesses face the challenges posed by Brexit. The sector has assured Government that it stands ready to support the working capital needs of businesses as they deal with the immediate impacts of Brexit.
In terms of online retail, after Brexit, the UK will not be part of the EU’s Digital Single Market and consumers may not be protected by the Consumer Rights Directive and other EU consumer protection legislation. When the UK leaves the EU, the operating environment for online retail will change, both for consumers buying from retailers and sites located in the UK and also for Irish retailers selling into the UK. This will bring uncertainties for both retailers and consumers. While e-commerce flows may well continue post Brexit, e-commerce will be affected due to additional import charges, duty and VAT, along with the administrative costs of export / re-import declarations in relation to returns for retailers. Consumers will therefore have to choose where they place their orders.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) website includes extensive information for consumers and businesses. It also sets out the changes to consumer rights for those purchasing from the UK including a helpful Q and A looking at the impact Brexit could have on rights when shopping online. It also has information on extra taxes and charges consumers may need to pay when ordering online from a country outside the EU. Their website will be updated as necessary, in light of future developments.
DBEI will continue to sign-post and provide information as it becomes available from the European Commission, Revenue and other relevant bodies as part of its outreach engagement with stakeholders.
In autumn 2018, DBEI launched a new pilot Online Retail Scheme, administered by EI, aimed at strengthening the online offering of retail businesses. The successful applicants of the first call were announced by Minister Humphreys on 1 March 2019. The second call opened on 19 June 2019 and will close on 31 July 2019.
The Retail Consultation Forum will continue to meet over the summer bringing together relevant government departments, agencies and industry who will engage on key issues in retail supply (including the Irish grocery retail and distribution sector) in order to gain necessary assurances on contingency planning and readiness.
Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices will continue to work with Irish businesses that supply into the UK retail market to ensure they are undertaking appropriate preparations. This includes an ongoing programme of engagement with buyers in the UK with Bord Bia having held 50 UK customer engagements from CEO and C Suite level to category manager to date in 2019
As part of the Government’s overarching Brexit communications strategy, the CCPC will run a further public awareness campaign on the potential changes to consumer rights as a result of Brexit. The CCPC and other stakeholders will also work to inform consumers regarding customs requirements that may apply to online purchases from the UK.