Retail Excellence Ireland has called for State support for retailers as it was revealed 60% of Irish online spending in 2017 went to foreign retailers.

Lorraine Higgins of Retail Excellence Ireland said the threat posed to Irish retailers by online operations overseas has been growing for more than a decade. The retail representative body is concerned that unless some level of State-intervention is implemented, many indigenous businesses that make the Republic’s retail space unique would shut.

According to Ms Higgins, “Consumers see a huge price differential between online and bricks and mortar shops, but many of the prices that we see online do not include VAT or duty and seem much cheaper. Around two-thirds of consumer spending is leaving the country every single day, and that presents a massive challenge to the retail industry and to Revenue.”

Less than 30 per cent of Irish retailers have an e-commerce capability on their websites, and 22 per cent have no online presence at all. According to Retail Excellence Ireland the numbers highlight the size of the challenge many retailers face if they are to survive, and she called for State support for small enterprises seeking to build websites to compete against overseas competitors. The calls came in the wake of the closure last month of a branch of the Walton’s music shop on Dublin’s South Great George’s Street.

Thomas Burke, director of Retail Ireland, the Ibec umbrella group for the industry was cautiously optimistic about the future, “I see it as a glass half full kind of situation. Shopping is not just the transaction, it is a past time and it is a social activity, and I think retailers need to take advantage of that fact they do not have to just go toe-to-toe with the big online retailers on price and can offer something a bit different.”