Minister pledges support for indies

TD Kevin Moran pledged to support independent retailers in their campaign for an industry ombudsman after NFRN members met him at Dail Eireann to outline the pressures faced by Irish stores.

Mr Moran told members they were in a good position and he was prepared to force the government to act after members raised concerns about a lack of ombudsman or minister responsible for protecting and growing the small business sector in Ireland.

“I mentioned this to Leo Varadkar before he became Taoiseach,” said Mr Moran, adding he was advised to wait initially to see what progress was made after the election. “We’ll do some research. We may need to look at introducing a private members’ bill, but if I feel we’re going nowhere we might have to force the government to do something.”

Delegates told Mr Moran the biggest issues facing Irish newsagents were rising rates and carriage charges, and the monopoly of big brands such as Londis, Musgrave, Spar and Supervalu.

“Londis tells me when to open and when to close,” said Athlone retailer Martin Mulligan. “I’ve no independence in my own shop. Those guys have got us by the throat, and there’s nobody overseeing independent traders.”

Other members said wholesalers are making it hard for new traders to open businesses by charging a deposit of €2,000, which is only returned if they cease trading.

“All business involves risk taking,” said Wexford retailer Peter Steemers. “But they have moved the risk from themselves and onto the customers they are supplying.”

Mr Moran promised to champion their cause.

“Whatever I can do will be done. I’m not one of those politicians to thank you all for coming and you’ll never see me again,” he said. “I believe in small grocery shops, and in protecting the 350,000 jobs in them.”

 

What are the best new products you’ve introduced in your shop this
year?

My coffee machine. It’s very profitable. I’ve had a slush machine since last year, which was a good investment. And it’s good to have my ice cream machine up and running for the summer.

Martin Mulligan

Londis, Athlone

I’ve focused on offering better value, with things like six multipacks of crisps for €2, and reducing beer prices, to offer six cans of Budweiser for €9. We’re aiming for a better margin through volume sales.

Bob Murphy

Bob’s News Off Licence, Darndale, Dublin

I’m introducing a new coffee concept called Café Grande. I’m also adding croissants, donuts, crepes and cakes to go with the machine, and will dedicate the back wall to ice cream too.

Peter Steemers

Steemers O’Leary’s, Main Street Bunclody, Wexford

Call for Irish voices on NEC

Irish NFRN members should be represented on the NFRN’s national executive committee, it has been argued.

“I am concerned we don’t have an Irish representative because we seem to lose out in many ways,” said Martin Mulligan. “I’d like that rectified.”

But Peter Steemers warned problems might occur because the move would involve a change of rules and structure.

It was suggested Republic of Ireland national councillors meet with Northern Ireland representatives Gwen Patterson and Judith Mercer to discuss the possibility of working together at national council level.

 

Public affairs day at Dail

A proposed public affairs day at Dail Eireann will only succeed if all NFRN ROI members attend, delegates said.

The government meeting has been discussed previously and details should be finalised during the next district meeting in October.

However, members were told the Dail visit would not be effective if only a few people attended.

“If we’re going to go to the Dail, we need the support of every retailer,” said Martin Mulligan.

“The Postmaster’s Union is going to the Department of Communications tomorrow. It is smaller than us but it will be there in force. That’s what makes the difference.”

Donegal retailer Packie Doherty suggested members might be encouraged to attend the Dail meeting if there was a trade event or other incentive.

 

Retailers see no Lottery benefit

Dwindling ticket sales, a reported lack of customer service from the National Lottery and the rise of online tickets have left members feeling disillusioned and concerned about its future in their stores. “I don’t see the Lottery being very beneficial to us anymore,” said Peter Steemers.

Martin Mulligan said retailers would just become payout stations as results can be checked on phones. Ticket sales have fallen to a third of what they were a few years ago, they added.

Members agreed online lottery sales were taking away from their business, but Martin Mulligan said: “You need to show goodwill to customers, that’s the only thing you can’t do online.”

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