£3m e-commerce scheme revealed for NI retail firms

New Invest Northern Ireland scheme to help micro-business retailers to grow their sales online.

With applications open from today (3 February), the Covid-19 Micro-business E-commerce Grant has been developed by Invest Northern Ireland to help retail micro-businesses grow their business online.

It follows on from the success of Invest NI’s Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant.

“The ongoing restrictions and current closure of our high streets means that many businesses need to pivot to online selling”

The scheme is aimed at micro-sized retailers, which are those employing fewer than 10 people, with retail premises and which derive the majority of their turnover from retail customers.

All businesses are now digital businesses

Some of the eligible activities covered by the scheme include engaging the services of a supplier to review your current digital marketing capabilities and online sales channels, develop an e-commerce strategy, develop or enhance your e-commerce website or online presence to drive increased sales or to help improve the digital marketing and e-commerce capability of the employees in the business. Full details on criteria, eligibility and how to apply are available on nibusinessinfo.

The call for applications will close at 6pm on Friday 12 March 2021.

“The ongoing restrictions and current closure of our high streets means that many businesses need to pivot to online selling,” said Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

“For micro-businesses this can be a big step and this grant will help those with some basic online presence to develop this into a full online retail solution. In doing so the scheme will support these smaller retailers to develop and grow their customer base and find new markets.”

Smyth Patterson in Lisburn was awarded funding from a similar Digital Selling Capability Grant scheme launched by the Department last year to help retailers and wholesalers generate business online.

“The impact of Covid-19 has resulted in a significant shift in consumer buying habits towards more online purchasing,” explained Smyth Patterson managing director Colin Patterson.

“Invest NI’s Digital Selling Capability Grant has given us access to digital experts who are helping us to create a new e-Commerce website to improve our service online.

“Launching in March 2021, our new website will help us drive online sales in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland and help us to increase turnover by 20pc over the next three years. We are optimistic that this growth in sales will also require us to increase our team in the near future. We would encourage those micro retail businesses who need extra online support to avail of this new scheme and secure the future of their business,” Patterson added.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 3 February 2021