25-27 August 2024 | RDS | Dublin (Opens 10am - 5pm daily)
25-27 August 2024 | RDS | Dublin (Opens 10am - 5pm daily)



We spoke with Duncan Graham, MD of Retail Excellence to get his views on how retail has fared since COVID 19 — and Brexit — became a reality.

How have retailers been doing during the pandemic? Are some sectors doing better than others?

It’s been a tough 12 months with sales overall down 9% on 2019. Whilst essential retailers like food stores and pharmacies have performed reasonably well, non-essential retailers have been through three seriously damaging lockdowns and been forced to pivot their businesses on-line in order to survive. Clothes shops, department stores and bookshops have been particularly badly impacted

What have the Irish businesses who have successfully negotiated their way through the pandemic done differently?

They have developed a strong E-commerce offering and really focused on developing a strong omni channel brand. The agile ones that have responded to the challenge are the ones that have grown and will emerge strongest.

What sort of assistance has proved most effective for retailers?

The government supports around wages (EWSS) and the Covid Recovery Support Scheme (CRSS) have kept businesses afloat and people employed. The Enterprise Ireland Online Retail Scheme and the Online voucher scheme via the LEOs have helped businesses move online

Re Brexit ….What’s the outlook? Is there any evidence that it might be a positive for some businesses?

It is taking a long time for businesses to get this right although there is now evidence that 80% of freight is moving effectively through the ports. Food and short shelf-life items have been particularly impacted.

If anyone will benefit it will be the Irish retailer who is selling online and will encourage Irish consumers to buy local rather than risk going into the UK and it taking longer and costing more.

What sort of changes can we expect in town centers and shopping centres after the pandemic lockdown is lifted?

A lot of empty units and boarded-up shops in the short term. We will need landlords and banks to provide support and forbearance and enable retailers to get trading again. In the medium term, there will be deals to be done to entice new entrants into the market, particularly local Irish brands and European brands. We have seen a number of UK brands quietly exit the Irish market over the last year.

Are you optimistic for the future of retail in Ireland?

Yes, Q4 this year will be very good if the vaccination rate proceeds as planned. There will be a very blended shopping environment in the future with a mixture of the physical and digital shopping that will be very different from previously. Get set for the roaring 20s if we get this right!


Retail Excellence is the largest retail representative body in Ireland with over 2000 members. Established in 1995, it is owned by the Members, for the Members and is the largest retail industry trade body in Ireland. The aim of the organisation is to enhance the consumer’s retail experience by developing top-class retail standards and skills and to promote a vibrant and competitive world-class retail industry in Ireland.