More ambitious National Digital Plan required immediately.
Lack of ambition evident in Government e-commerce strategy.
Billions being lost to economy through foreign on-line sales.
Thousands of SME retail jobs under threat.
At the release of the CSO Retail Sales figures for January today (30th March), ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, called on whatever new government is formed to prioritise the roll-out of world-class broadband, as the lack of progress to date is costing billions in lost business opportunities. The Association demanded a new emphasis on e-commerce, in particular for retailers, to allow them future proof their business through investment in training and infrastructure.
Commenting on today’s retail figures, ISME CEO Mark Fielding said, “We remain positive about the future of the sector, growth is returning slowly after a prolonged period of falling sales and margin wipe-out. It is now time for policy makers to work with sector representatives to decide the future of retailing. This involves investment in education and e-commerce supports for retailers entering the online sales channel as well as ensuring adequate broadband throughout the country”.
“Irish businesses are lagging behind in the digital revolution and many now face a difficult game of catch-up. The Online Trading Vouchers, launched as part of the National Digital Strategy, should potentially get more businesses online but the low number and alarmingly slow roll out of these has meant the scheme has been ineffective thus far. One of the main reasons for this, especially in rural areas, is the inadequate broadband service.
Government needs to prioritise this issue immediately. We are an export-focused economy that is allowing the vast majority of retail businesses to miss out on the e-tailing and export opportunities offered by trading online.”
“We need a national plan similar to the drive for electrification in the 1930’s, which was driven by politicians with vision. The current plan is for 30Mb for all by 2020, which will still leave us in the ‘halfpenny place’. It is not a lack of finance, expertise, interest or understanding that is holding businesses back from developing an online presence; it is broadband.”
The Association called for:
• A new more ambitious National Digital Plan, fast-tracking world-class broadband to all areas.
• An increase to five thousand retail on-line vouchers for all SMEs.
• An increase in retail training places.
“Government needs to prioritise this issue immediately. We are an export-focused economy that is allowing the vast majority of retail businesses to miss out on the e-tailing and export opportunities offered by trading online”, concluded Fielding.