Small business tsar is needed

NFRN representatives from across the UK and Ireland are calling for a dedicated ombudsman for micro retailers.

The need for a small business champion to support Ireland’s smallest retailers – potentially helping them negotiate carriage charges while also bringing more attention to small, rural businesses – was highlighted during the NFRN Republic of Ireland AGM.

Martin Mulligan, Peter Steemers, Patrick Doherty, national president Ray Monelle and chief executive Paul Baxter met with TDs (Teachta Dála) Kevin Moran, Pat Breen and John Halligan at Dail Eireann, following the district council meeting.

As well as the suggestion of an ombudsman, legislation which could mean all wines and spirits are placed behind a curtain was also discussed. “We have made two submissions – one requesting a regulator for micro retailers, one on the sale of alcohol on retail premises,” said Mr Mulligan. “Due to the Independent Alliance that legislation has been shelved at the moment, but we’re very worried it will come back and it needs to be put away permanently.

“Our margins are shrinking. The Competitions Authority isn’t anywhere near a Competitions Authority because it doesn’t look at the real issues.”

Mr Monelle added he has scheduled meetings at the Welsh Parliament and Westminster, and suggested all Irish members should contact their TDs and continue to lobby the government.

Another meeting has been scheduled for 29 May, where NFRN members will meet with politicians in Dail Eireann to discuss their concerns, and further events have been planned for later in the year.

Do the promotions you get from your wholesaler or symbol group promote healthy eating?

I think because of the present talk about healthy eating and sugar tax my wholesaler JR Byrnes is conscious of that. It’s pushing more low-sugar drinks and healthier confectionery products such as energy bars.

Joe Sweeney

News Centre, Donaghmede, Co. Dublin

We’ve loads and loads of promotions for healthy eating at the moment. Should we be doing more? I don’t think so. They’re forever promoting bars and low-sugar drinks and that sort of thing.

Tom McDermott

Western Road Londis, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary

They could do more but I’m not sure if it’s possible. I find the healthier items very expensive and they don’t sell because of that. I have to cut them into about half the price to get rid of them.

Peter Steemers

Day to Day News Shop, Bunclody, Co. Wexford

Steemers is re-elected president

Irish president Peter Steemers was unanimously re-elected to serve in post for another year, while Martin Mulligan was re-elected to the post of vice president.

Both were also elected to serve as the branch’s national councillors for the year ahead.

During the NFRN Republic of Ireland AGM, members also voted to maintain the existing structure of the executive committee, with Vincent Bannon, Patrick Doherty, Michael McDermott, Tom McDermott, Bob Murphy, Aidan Roche and Joe Sweeney all voted in for another year.

Patrick Doherty, Michael McDermott and Martin Mulligan were again voted in as district trustees, while Tom McDermott and Martin Mulligan were appointed to be the national lottery agents for the district.


Charges threat to businesses

Concerns were raised that rising carriage charges are making many businesses “unsustainable” in the Republic of Ireland.

Tom McDermott said he was paying €110 per week to have his papers and magazines delivered to his store, while Peter Steemers said he is being charged €8 per week for returns on top of the usual carriage charges.

Also addressing the issue, Paul Baxter said: “They are not sustainable the way they’re going. We know that and we’re looking at alternatives.

“We have to keep on pushing the industry to explore different ways of operating,” he said, suggesting Irish stores start looking at sub-retailing.

“If we’re serious about sub-retailing we have to get on and do it,” he added.

Mr Baxter added the pricing of some UK-based magazines in the Republic of Ireland was “ridiculous”, with some magazines costing twice as much in euros as they do in pounds.


Anger at supply to non-newsagents

Newspaper deliveries to non-newsagent stores are causing frustration and the NFRN is considering legal action to tackle the issue.

Aidan Roche told the district council a nearby Ladbrokes store has been having its papers delivered to his shop because it is not open when the deliveries take place.

“Newspread are sending in bundles to us for Ladbrokes and expect us to hold them for them free of charge,” Mr Roche said. “They are using us as a carrier.”

Other members shared stories of local dental practices collecting their magazines from newsagents and queried whether or not they would be liable for the same carriage charges.

Mr Baxter said the federation was considering a legal challenge against the problem.

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