Brown Thomas win National Retailer of they Year

Brown Thomas win big at Retail Excellence Awards

Saturday saw the cream of the retail crop descend on the stunning Great Southern Hotel in Killarney to see Ireland’s top retailers and the winners of the 2019 Retail Excellence Awards revealed.

Brown Thomas of Grafton Street scooped the top two awards of the night, taking home the title of ‘Retailer of the Year’ and ‘National Store of the Year’.

Brown Thomas win National Retailer of they Year
Brown Thomas win National Retailer of they Year

The other Top5 Store winners included Arboretum, Carlow, Hook & Ladder, Limerick, Petstop, Limerick and Windyridge Nursery & Garden Centre, Dublin. Other awards included Best in Ecommerce which went to Vaughan Shoes and Retail Industry Advocate of the Year which was awarded to Enterprise Ireland. The great city of Cork was named as Ireland’s Friendliest Place.

Celebrating excellence across retail, the awards also highlighted exceptional talent within the retail industry. Excel CEO Barry Whelan was delighted to be asked to resume his role as Head Judge for the Manager of the Year and Rising Star categories.

Barry says “The standard of entry for Manager of the Year and Rising Star, is always very high but this year, in particular, was exceptional. The level of energy, passion, drive and innovation on display from retailers around the country is really exciting.”

CEO Barry Whelan presents the award for Manager of the Year to Eamon Kelleher
CEO Barry Whelan presents the award for Manager of the Year to Eamon Kelleher

Barry was delighted to present Manager of the Year to Eamonn Kelleher of Co-Op Superstores while Eoife Clarke of Golden Discs took home Rising Star of the Year.

“We are delighted to recognize and award the very best in Irish retail We are particularly pleased that across all of our categories of awards Irish retailers, both big and small, urban and rural competed to deliver that exceptional standard of service to customers regardless of their size.”

Excel Recruitment would like to say a massive congratulations to each of the 2019 Retail Excellence Award winners. Each of the winners and shortlisted stores and managers represents the best in the retail industry in Ireland. All show an unquestionable commitment to meeting and exceeding customer expectations as well as innovation in store and in-service delivery.

Established by Retail Excellence in 1997, The Awards is the biggest event in the Irish retail industry calendar and aims to promote best practice and encourage high standards in the Irish retail industry.

National Retailer of the Year 2020Brown Thomas Group
National Store of the Year 2020Brown Thomas, Dublin
Top5 Store & National Garden Centre of the Year 2020Arboretum, Carlow
Top5 Store & Restaurant & Coffee House of the Year 2020Hook & Ladder, Limerick
Top5 Store & National Pet Store of the Year 2020Petstop, Limerick
Top5 Store 2020Windyridge Nurseries & Garden Centre, Dublin
National Electronic & Tech Store of the Year 2020Fun Tech Global, Dublin
National Book Store of the YearVibes & Scribes, Cork
National Supermarket of the Year 2020Garvey’s SuperValu, Limerick
National Pharmacy of the Year 2020Cunningham’s Pharmacy, Athlone
National Visitor Store of the Year 2020Nano Nagle Place, Cork
National Home / Interiors Store of the Year 2020Casey’s Furniture, Limerick
National Jewellery Store of the Year 2020Gerry Browne Jewellers, Portlaoise
National Optician of the Year 2020McMahons Opticians, Carrick-on-Shannon
Retail Industry Advocate of the Year 2020Enterprise Ireland
Suppliers of the Year 2020MJ Flood Technology & Seachange
Ireland’s Friendliest Place 2020Cork City
Manager of the Year 2020Eamonn Kelleher, Co-Op Superstores
Rising Star of the Year 2020Eoife Clarke, Golden Discs
Online Retailer of the Year


Pope's Visit 2018

Pope’s visit ‘a disaster’ for Dublin retailers and restaurants

Dublin retailers and restaurateurs saw custom drop by up to 50% over the weekend of Pope Francis’ visit in what many are calling a ‘missed opportunity’. The weekend saw widespread traffic restrictions implemented across Dublin to accommodate the papal visit, with more than 50 road closures. Business groups representing both industries are blaming poor communication around the traffic restrictions for the dramatic fall in sales.

Retail Excellence chief executive Lorraine Higgins said: “There was a 35-40 per cent decline in sales as a consequence and when sales are lost to that extent they can never be made back up.” Ms Higgins said the closures could have been manageable with better information and there was a lack of regard for businesses in the planning of the event.

“Businesses suffered as a consequence of a lack of communication around the papal visit. The understanding among the general public was that Dublin city centre was closed for business,” she said. “ “While there were restrictions on private cars, public transport was still running and it is a great pity that message didn’t get through….I can appreciate the efforts the various authorities have to go through, but the fact of the matter is the Pope wasn’t going through the city centre until some time after 4pm on Saturday, so retailers could have had almost a full day’s trading.”

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the visit was a missed opportunity to highlight what Dublin city centre had to offer. “With so many international media in Ireland this could have been a great showcase for the city, but instead it was a monumental disaster for businesses with people seeing losses of 30 to 50% depending on their location.

” Business organisations had attended a meeting at the start of August with representatives of the Garda, the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the World Meeting of Families organisers, but Mr Cummins said no further information came until the information packs were sent out to businesses and residents last Thursday. By that stage it was too late.” There was no excuse for the lack of communication, Mr Cummins said. “It’s not as if the Pope announced at the beginning of August that he was coming in three weeks’ time, the logistics surrounding this and the communications and liaison with businesses, that should all have been squared off three months ago.”

Dublin Chamber of Commerce spokesman Graeme McQueen said it had been a “tough weekend” for businesses. “This should have been a bumper weekend for retailers with kids going back to school, but it will have been even harder for the non-retail sector – cafes and restaurants – because the loss of business over those two days can’t be recovered.” The level of traffic restriction was “a little bit over the top” but the lack of information made the situation worse.

“Businesses were a bit of an afterthought, and the lack of information for customers meant they either left Dublin, or stayed put in their houses. This could have been a real festival event, and hopefully lessons will be learned for future events.”


Retailers deal with aftermath of Storm Emma

As the thaw continues, retailers around the country are counting the cost of the last week’s weather disruption where heavy snowfall and the Red Weather Alerts saw many forced to close their doors from Wednesday. Some businesses have still not re-opened in the aftermath of the severe weather.

Lorraine Higgins, deputy chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, said different sectors experienced varying degrees of disruption. “The focus on grocery purchases meant that purchases in other sectors were postponed. Huge losses were incurred as a consequence of being closed for five days. It’s the loss of sales, employee costs and general clean-up costs that they are facing now,” she explained. Ms Higgins said retailers are now trying to encourage footfall back into their stores after several days of closures and some quiet days over the weekend. “Retailers who had an e-commerce capacity were advertising online quite heavily. It’s been a difficult time for many sectors so I’d be encouraging people to go out and support retailers with a physical store presence and divert some of the spend from businesses overseas to retailers here.”

According to Miss Higgins, the big winners from spending in the online sphere are overseas retailers that do not have a physical presence here, with an estimated two-thirds of spending online by Irish consumers leaving the country. “Many discerning retailers with an online capacity here had sales of 15-20% to encourage people to spend online over the past few days. But that comes at the expense of heavy advertising,” she said. “What this points to is the need for retailers to have ‘omnichannel strategies.’ They’re becoming increasingly important in light of the frequency of recent weather events,” Lorraine Higgins concluded.

The heavy snow presented numerous challenges for grocery stores, which saw huge demand for fresh food in supermarkets over the weekend. Retail group BWG Foods has revealed a Brennan’s Sliced Pan was the number one item in demand over the last few days, followed by litres of milk, 6 packs of eggs, firelighters and wine.

Call for government support for retailers in fight against online giants

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.”

Retailers want online market places to pay VAT and duties

The retail representative group, Retail Excellence Ireland, have called for legislation to make online market-places liable to collect VAT and duties.

The group say the proposed measure will help to counteract the level of retail spend leaving the country. Retail Excellence Ireland is calling for legislation similar to the UK’s Finance Act which was introduced in December. Under the Act, online market-places were made responsible for collecting VAT and duties.

“We think that we should expect no less here in Ireland, because it’s not enough in budgets to just increase consumer spend and think that takes care of retail,” said Lorraine Higgins, Deputy Chief Executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, “We need retail-focused solutions for the future.”

Ms Higgins, Deputy Chief Executive at Retail Excellence Ireland, said two-thirds of online spend is leaving Ireland, and retailers here are aggrieved by competition from online retailers based outside the state who do not have to pay duties. “First and foremost we need to look at the online market-places, and the fact that they don’t have any duty on them,” she said. “So what we’d like to see is robust legislation introduced in the upcoming budget that would make online marketplaces jointly and separately liable to collect VAT and duties.”

She said retailers “were investing heavily in marketing campaigns to try and offset the type of cheap imports that were coming from websites, predominantly outside of the EU” She said the industry is seeing is an elongation of the shopping period at Christmas time, and a lot of retailers have stepped up to the mark and offered bargains, deductions and discounts in November, in order to try and encourage people into stores, to offset the challenges coming from websites outside of Ireland.

Bumper ‘Cyber Week’ for retailers says Retail Excellence Ireland

Pharmacy, cosmetics, electronics, technology and fashion have been the biggest draws for Irish shoppers so far this Christmas season. A report conducted by retail representative body Retail Excellence Ireland show a sales lift of up to 60% year-on-year during the final week of November. This week, dubbed ‘Cyber Week’ has fast become a crucial time for retailers as it sees online retail figures spike in time for Christmas. It stems originally from US retailers tempting shoppers by offering bargains around the American Thanksgiving holiday. Events such as Cyber Week have prompted many retailers to adapt their sales strategy with a view to elongating the Christmas shopping period.

Lorraine Higgins, Deputy Chief Executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, said the survey was representative of all the retail sectors in Ireland and the fact that retailers were reporting a 20-60% increase in sales is a very positive story. According to Higgins, the benefits to the Exchequer are also obvious as well and she highlights how Budget 2018 resulted in many with increased disposable income, which is impacting positively on consumer sentiment. A record number of people are also back at work and so will up their spending.

But she added that the retail sector is not without its challenges, and the amount of spending that is “leaking out” of the country on a daily basis is one of these challenges. Two-thirds of consumers’ online spend is going out of the country and further supports for retailers to take on the European online stage are needed. She said that Enterprise Ireland currently supports manufacturing and processing companies, and now it is time the agency also supported the retail industry.

Ms Higgins said that online sales is an increasingly important part of retailers’ business and its growth cannot be underestimated. She said that it will become up to 30% of retailers’ business and so is too big to ignore. There are difficulties due to poor broadband services in some areas of the country, but Ms Higgins said that €602 billion is being spent by European consumers online and Irish retailers have to get a slice of that ever-increasing pie. According to Department of Communications figures, 84% of Irish consumers by 2020 will buy “frequently” online, she added.

Retail Excellence Ireland call for Government to introduce policies to protect retailers from Brexit, including 3% cut in VAT

Retail Excellence Ireland call for Government to introduce policies to protect retailers from Brexit, including 3% cut in VAT

Retail Excellence Ireland has called on the Government to cut VAT by 3% in the next Budget. The retail lobby group, has said Ireland’s ‘regressive’ VAT rate of 23% should be reduced to safeguard Irish retailers from the effects of Brexit. The lobby group said the 23% rate should be cut in “in one fell swoop”. Retail Excellence have previously called for a reduction in the charge but in their latest submission say any incremental reduction would have minimal effect on consumer spending.

The submission from the group including a number of measures the group feel are necessary for the government to introducing in an effort to help retailers including-

  • Immediate and emergency legislation to immediately tackle rising insurance costs
  • The introduction of a business focused bank, similar to the UK’s Metro Bank. Half of Metro Bank’s balance sheet lending is targeted at SMEs.
  • Training and financial support for businesses to set up and grow their online presence and eCommerce capabilities
  • Increased Garda presence and resources to tackle retail crime
  • A renewed focus and energy on regional town and village renewal schemes
  • Prioritise infrastructural development to encourage more FDI

The group also call on the Government to intervene on the issue of spiralling rents faced by retailers with the abolition of all upward only rent review clauses to allow all commercial tenants to pay market rents. The group say this would support many retailers who are suffering penal and unsustainable rents due to upward only leases.

In their submission, Retail Ireland Excellence pointed to the importance of retail to the Irish economy. Irish retailers operate some 45,000 businesses and directly employ some 282,000 employees.

“As a direct consequence of retail activity, €5.7 billion is contributed to the exchequer on an annual basis. Therefore, the significant of retail must not be underestimated,” said Lorraine Higgins, a spokeswoman for the organisation.