Health Stores Ireland is calling for emergency financial support to help independent retailers avoid being forced to close as a result of soaring energy costs.
The retailer association says it will be campaigning under the banner #inthistogether over the coming weeks, encouraging shoppers to continue supporting specialists, independent shops and other small businesses.
On LinkedIn, Health Stores Ireland said: “We hope this will give our 200 plus members and our 250 plus resilient Irish suppliers confidence that we can trade through these difficult times together – and we will.”
But the group insists that small businesses, like health stores, need emergency financial support to help them in short to medium term. And it warns that independent retailers in the health food sector “may have to consider staff layoffs, or closures, if no support is forthcoming.”
Health Stores Ireland points out “the disparity between how energy companies charge small businesses versus domestic customers, with small businesses often paying over four times that of domestic customers”.
It adds: “Energy companies publish domestic tariffs, but business tariffs are not and this feeds into fear and uncertainty. Our ability to strategize into the future, to allow us to forward plan pricing and staff costs depends on stable energy pricing, without this we will face uncertainty and closures. A long-term economic solution may lie with EU/European Commission supports, as energy supply is decoupled from Russian gas as part of EU policy – but in order for SMEs to survive emergency financial supports are required now.”
Prominent figures from Ireland’s health food retail scene have been taking to the airwaves to explain their concern and frustration.
Speaking to Ireland’s national talk radio station Newstalk (and to the Irish Examiner), co-owner of Organico health food store and bakery in Bantry, Hannah Dare, said: “This is our 30th birthday year and I think it’s going to be our most-challenging year yet. It feels like an unfair trading environment and I never felt that before. It feels like everything is increasing — except for turnover.”
“The biggest cost has been electricity bills. They went up 25% to 30% last year and they’ve gone up 100% this year. We are going to do our best to bring it down. We’ve invested in new equipment which is more energy efficient, we’re putting solar panels on the roof, but you’re looking at an eight-year return on investment for that. So it doesn’t help right now.”
Finn Murray, of The Hopsack in Dublin, told Newstalk: “We are now in a business climate that is already weighted towards the success of larger multinationals, our only hope to compete and maintain stability and sustainability is our ability to strategize into the future, to allow us to forward plan pricing, staff costs etc, so stable energy pricing is vital and without this we’re sunk”.