The retail and wholesale sector is the largest private sector employer in the country, employing almost 275,000 people, 12.5% of the workforce according to latest Government figures.
The retail sector suffered greatly in the recession, losing 50,000 jobs between 2008 and 2012, despite this, the sector has been showing steady recovery since 2014.
The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Minister Mitchell O’Connor, yesterday chaired the quarterly meeting of the Retail Consultation Forum.
The Retail Consultation Forum was established in 2014 as a response to the challenges experienced by the sector during the recession.
It provides a space for engagement between the sector and Government bodies to identify practical actions which could be taken by Government, or by industry itself, to support the sector.
Membership includes the main retail representative bodies, retailers themselves and representatives from relevant Government departments and public bodies.
Three Working Groups are examining issues such as energy costs for the retail sector, the digital economy and town centre revival and a fourth Working Group were announced at yesterday’s meeting to address the skills challenges faced by the sector. Initiatives that the Groups are examining include a pilot Energy Efficiency Training Programme for the sector and a Framework for Town Centre Revival.
In response to concerns raised at the Retail Forum about the result of the EU-UK referendum, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said, "The Irish Government is committed to working with the UK and other EU colleagues to minimise any negative impact of the British referendum. We are committed to supporting Irish businesses in this period of heightened uncertainty."
She added, "The Irish economy is strong, and I believe the key sectors of our economy, including the retail sector, are well positioned to meet the challenges of future months."