Irish retail firms urged to enhance online capability

New round of Online Retail Scheme launched for Irish retailers.

Irish retail businesses have been urged to enhance their online capability and presence in order to exploit new opportunities and increase turnover to expand and sell internationally.

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, TD, opened a new round of the Online Retail Scheme which supports ambitious Irish based retailers looking to grow and improve sales online and to strengthen their ecommerce capabilities. 

“The transition to online shopping was accelerated over the last two years and consumers retail habits have changed significantly”

The Scheme provides direct financial support to retail companies to develop a more competitive online business offering to complement their in-store offering. It is administered by Enterprise Ireland and there is €9.3m available in this round of funding.

Future-proof your business

“I want Irish based retailers to have every chance of competing for online sales that are currently going outside the country,” Minister English said  There is no reason why Irish businesses cannot successfully compete for home sales as well as international sales.  The Government is also determined to support more business owners to enhance their online capabilities and presence to exploit opportunities in existing and new markets.

“Companies applying for funding are future-proofing their business as they will be able to cater for multiple different shoppers”

“The transition to online shopping was accelerated over the last two years and consumers retail habits have changed significantly.  Many now make purchases anytime, anywhere, anyplace at the tip of their fingers or with the click of a mouse. It makes sound business sense to have an omnichannel approach to selling in order to cater for these new demands and to be competitive in the market. 

“Almost all previous recipients of funding in this Scheme noted an increase in online sales, many in international markets and the vast majority have hired additional employees to manage their increase in online sales.”

In order to be eligible for this funding, applicant companies must have 10 or more full-time employees and an existing online presence. Salary costs of an internal project champion can be partially covered by this support. This person can be any employee who has the support of the management to take on this responsibility, and will work with an external service provider on the project.

Previous applicants of the Online Retail Scheme who were unsuccessful will be eligible to reapply under this call with a modified proposal.  Applicants who were successful in previous calls are also eligible to re-apply under this round of the scheme, once they propose a project that is clearly different from their previous applications.

“There have been over 500 successful approvals under the Online Retail Scheme,” said Jenny Melia, Manager of Technology & Services, Enterprise Ireland. “Companies applying for funding are future-proofing their business as they will be able to cater for multiple different shoppers.

“We are encouraging applicants to show us clear objectives for their digital projects, and we want them to demonstrate the impact these changes would have on their business.  We are also encouraging applicant companies to assign an Internal Project Champion amongst their team, as this is an investment for them to build the in-house digital capabilities of employees.”

Supports for retailers

shopping trolley on Irish flag on keyboard.

This competitive call has a budget of €9.3m which will be funded from the Capital Carryover Fund.  Successful applicants will receive a grant ranging from €10,000 to a maximum of €64,000. 

The applicant must be an Irish based enterprise with a retail presence that had 10 or more full-time employees on a full-time equivalent basis in the latest accounting period or has grown to this level since that date (up to the date of current call), and has the potential to sustain or create jobs, generate growth in online transactions and with an ambition to internationalise their business in future.

For first time applicants, the grant is calculated at a maximum of 80% of eligible expenditure of up to €80,000.  For applicants who were awarded funding in the previous Online Retail Scheme calls, the grant is calculated at a maximum of 50% of eligible expenditure of up to €80,000.

The Department launched a pilot Online Retail Scheme in late 2018 under which funding of almost €900k was approved for 40 retailers during 2019. There were three previous calls under the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme. Over 500 retailers were granted €18.2m over 3 Calls of the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme from 2020 to 2021.

Additional supports available to retailers

For smaller retailers (those with 10 or less employees) looking to develop their online presence, the Local Enterprise Offices offer the Trading Online Voucher scheme (TOVS). This scheme provides businesses with a voucher for €2,500 to help them to develop their E-commerce capabilities and includes training in digital marketing and social media.

Local Enterprise Office clients can also avail of other programmes in conjunction with the TOVs, such as LEAN for Micro and Green for Micro, which can help reduce costs and increase efficiencies within their business.

LEAN for Micro provides businesses with consultancy support from a LEAN Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost savings project and assist the company in benchmarking its performance.

Green for Micro offers two days of intensive mentoring, including a sustainability audit and action plan designed to help “green” a business. This programme includes free advice and technical support on resource efficiency, a better understanding of carbon footprint and advice on how to implement an environmental management system to reduce costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.  

Main image: Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, TD

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.