A pilot scheme worth €625,000 has been launched to help Irish retailers grow their e-commerce abilities and grow their online sales.

The scheme, launched by the government and set to be run by Enterprise Ireland aims to help Irish retailers export more goods through their only shops. It is hoped the scheme will provide grants to at least 25 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the retail sector to help improve their online capabilities and compete better internationally. The grants will be in the range of €10,000-€25,000 and at least half of the total number of grants awarded will be reserved for retail SMEs with their headquarters outside Dublin.

The grants can be used for research, consultation, implementation and training costs and will be made on a matching funds basis meaning a grant of €25,000 will only be awarded if the company is also investing €25,000 in its online trading strategy.

The scheme was announced at a meeting of the Retail Consultation Forum, a grouping of retail industry and public sector bodies chaired by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys.

“Many retailers face increasing international competition on their doorstep and need to enhance their competitiveness,” the Minister said.

To apply

To apply, the retail companies must be Irish-owned with the potential to create jobs, generate sales growth and export. They must also have an existing online presence and employ at least 20 people in the Republic.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the organisation anticipated “a good response” to the pilot scheme from eligible retailers. “There is a strong need for Irish retailers to innovate through digitalisation,” she said.

Lorraine Higgins, chief executive of industry body Retail Excellence Ireland, welcomed the scheme.

“This is a hugely welcome development and a sea change in policy as the export potential of Irish retailers is now being recognised. Having an online sales channel is critical given the boundaryless nature of the industry and this pilot will certainly enhance the sales capacity of the successful applicants.”

She said the organisation looked forward to seeing the scheme expanded in the longer term.