As Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail I am keenly aware of the important role the home, giftware and Jewellery markets play as part of the overall retail sector in Ireland.
The past year has been difficult for most businesses, including suppliers, buyers, and retailers. The impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have posed significant challenges and it is vital that businesses continue to develop their resilience in the face of these and for the future. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those using the Digital Buyers Guide for their continued support of the national effort through this unprecedented public health crisis.
To support businesses and workers during the pandemic, we ensured we had a broad mix of financial assistance measures in place. The level of support provided to businesses across all sectors has been unprecedented. Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and fiscal measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors survive. A full list of measures available can be found on enterprise.gov.ie.
Adapting to new ways of doing business is a key challenge, but particularly for smaller businesses and for businesses across the many towns and villages in Ireland. It is important that there is a strong, diverse, and balanced business presence across the country, which sustains the local and domestic economy and contributes to the export economy, both online and offline. By using the Autumn Gift & Home Fair/Jewellery Ireland Digital Buyers Guide you too have shown the appetite to adapt, survive and thrive.
A long-term goal for the overall retail sector prior to the pandemic was to scale-up online offerings to complement physical outlets. This goal has been accelerated due to the pandemic, and I want to see this digital development of the sector continue. It is essential the sector maximize the opportunities presented by the digital economy to survive and thrive over the coming years.
There is a lot of opportunity for Ireland’s many small, but nimble, home, giftware and jewellery enterprises to develop their digital sales channels. The impact of temporary public health restrictions has seen a major increase in website traffic as more and more people look for local businesses online, for Irish products to buy as gifts and many small businesses enjoyed strong sales growth in 2020 despite the pandemic.
It’s important also for an interrogation of these digital and online opportunities for the business-to-business side of your trade. By continuing to adapt, the home, giftware and jewellery markets can carry on making new connections between buyers and suppliers, creating new innovative products, and exploiting the most up-to-date methods of selling – online and instore. Continuous commercial contact is also essential in maintaining relationships and securing business for the months and years ahead as the world emerges from the pandemic.
I am determined to support that ambition and assist businesses to increase their digital presence and boost online sales allowing them to target new and existing customers in the online space. I want the complete retail sector to continue to develop and to become one of our most innovative and resilient sectors. As Minister, I will support this by continuing to work collaboratively with the retail sector and to address any issues it may face.