The director of Retail Ireland has said the decision to shut non-essential retail was really disappointing.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One, Arnold Dillon said that up to a few days ago retailers had hoped to remain trading into the New Year.

He said there was an appreciation in Government that retail was a safe environment but added that clearly there is a wider objective now to reduce people’s movement.

Mr Dillon said the hope is that the country will find itself in the near future in a position to unwind the restrictions and reopen again.

December and the early part of January are the most important trading period of the year for many retailers, Mr Dillon said, adding that a lot of retailers were trying to make up for significant losses incurred earlier in the year.

Over 30,000 to 40,000 retail workers will go on the PUP in the coming days, he said.

Vulnerable businesses will be trying to make sure they have resources in place to survive current restrictions, he added. But not all will make it, he claimed.

The Retail Ireland boss said it is vital that additional Government resources are put in place for viable businesses.

In particular, he said, measures will be needed to protect those retailers in disputes with landlords.

Meanwhile, Retail Excellence has expressed “shock and dismay” at today’s Government decision to extend the new Covid-19 restrictions to include non-essential retailers and said the sector will need urgent financial support.

Retail Excellence represents retailers of all size across the country who collectively employ about 280,000 people.

Duncan Graham, the chief executive of Retail Excellence, described the move as “a hammer blow to the retail sector”.

Mr Graham said that retailers had followed Government guidelines since reopening just a few weeks ago and had carefully managed customer volumes and health and safety protocols.

“We did everything we were asked to do over the Christmas period,” Mr Graham said.

“We restricted customer numbers in the run up to Christmas, we managed the post-Christmas period with great care and sensitivity as we were asked to and we paid huge attention to ensuring safety protocols were respected,” he added.

He said today’s news would devastate local businesses across the country; adding that his “heart goes out to our members who have worked so hard to prove they could be trusted to manage this difficult situation and who are now being treated like this.”

After the year retailers have had, he said, he fears that many shops that close now may never open again.

“Our members will need urgent, significant financial support to have any chance of reopening and we will be seeking urgent meetings with the Government around how to manage rents, taxes and payroll given the extended lockdowns we have had to endure over the past nine months,” he added.

Ibec says move to Level 5 ‘devastating’ for non-essential retailers 

Business group Ibec has said that the Government decision to implement stricter Level 5 Covid restrictions from midnight tonight is devastating for the many businesses and service providers who will be out of employment once more as we enter the New Year.

Ibec said that while the measures announced this evening reflect the gravity of the surge in virus cases, the livelihoods of so many are once again suppressed.

“While Ibec recognises the need for an increase in restrictions due to the seriousness of the Covid situation in Ireland and across Europe, the move to Level 5, most notably the shutdown of non-essential retail outlets, threatens a great number of individual livelihoods across the country,” Ibec’s chief executive Danny McCoy said.

“Having made this decision, Government must urgently and collectively work with business to expedite the widespread rollout of Covid vaccines,” Mr McCoy said.

PUP and CRSS supports to be made available to affected businesses

The Government has said supports such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will continue to be made available to those impacted by the additional Level 5 restrictions.

A double payment of the CRSS, up to a maximum of €5,000 a week, will be available to those businesses subject to restrictions this week and next week.

It also says businesses affected will be able to avail of commercial rates relief for the first three months of 2021.

In the retail sector, click and collect services will be able to continue under the additional Level 5 restrictions.