The Irish retail sector is facing many of the same challenges as the British high street.
As a business with retail brands in both markets, we share a lot of the sentiments in the Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann report. Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis, hits the nail on the head with his comment: “The question we should be trying to address is not ‘how do we fill empty shops?’ but ‘how do we create vibrant local economies?’”
I believe independent retailers are crucial to creating vibrant local economies. Communities need local retailers who think long term and will develop and grow stores that are the living heartbeat of their communities.
Local companies work together with other local businesses to create a dynamic micro economy. As drivers of footfall and consumer expenditure, independent retailers provide opportunities for local businesses and indirectly create employment opportunities in the process.
Musgrave Group supports over 3,500 stores and we understand the benefit of independent retailers to local communities, particularly in Ireland. Our independent retail partners provide affordable quality food sourced from trusted local suppliers, they embrace new technology and they provide valuable employment, all of which has an important knock-on effect within the local economy.
” Reviving the high street will come from fostering the local economy”
Every time an independent retailer creates a job locally, another 0.7 jobs are created indirectly. With 29,000 people employed by us and our retailers in Ireland, we are indirectly responsible for generating another 20,000 jobs in service provider and supplier companies.
Shoppers who spend their money at local independent shops begin a virtuous cycle in which businesses go on to purchase from other local companies. In this way, spending equates to investment in the local economy.
Reviving the high street will come from fostering economic recovery at a local level. Locally owned and operated stores keep and circulate three times more money locally than international ownership. This is the local multiplier effect in action.
To drive enterprise, innovation and ambition in our young people, a range of supports needs to be put in place such as access to finance and mentoring services. Small companies also need relevant information, advice and support that will help them establish and grow their business.
Collaboration is vital to the success of local retailers and in this regard, policy-makers and in particular local authorities need to do more to reduce red tape and increase town centre accessibility, for example, through free parking. Regeneration projects that encourage greater footfall and increase the overall attractiveness of town centres should also be pursued by local authorities and communities.
The national economy is the accumulation of all the local economies. If we want to revive the national economy, it is vital we support local entrepreneurial retailers who are the bedrock of our local economies and who hold the key to the long-term prosperity of the country.
Chris Martin is CEO of Musgrave Group