The Voice of Small Business

Following a relatively positive Budget, there appears to be some degree of willingness to listen to the voice of small business at long last.


The Minister for State for Small Business Mr John Perry TD recently presented An Taoiseach with the Report of the Advisory Group for Small Business – “The Voice of Small Business – A Plan for Action” – of which our mediateam colleague John McDonald played an active part as a member of the Group.

The Taoiseach had asked Minister Perry to identify five Priority Actions on which immediate implementation can be commenced by the end of the year in such a report.

The report sets out the collective voice of small business and addresses competitive practices, stating, “Small grocery retailers, off-licences and publicans are struggling to compete with larger supermarket retailers with deep pockets who are utlising below-cost selling tactics with products such as alcohol to generate increased footfall and arguably to build local market share at the expense of local small businesses. In the case of alcohol there are also legitimate broader social concerns”.

And on red tape, the report is clear: “The uncoordinated manner in which a range of regulatory inspections is undertaken also places an additional burden on firms. There is definitely potential for a more coherent approach among enforcement and inspection agencies”.

It proposes, “The relevant stakeholders (retailers including multiples, independents & off-licences, wholesalers, the Health Promotion Unit and drinks companies) should agree a Voluntary Code of Practice to implement an initiative to cease the practices of below-cost selling of alcohol. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation should issue a statement to the effect that he supports and encourages fair competition in this regard”.

Encouragingly, as a result of this first report, an Inter-Departmental Liaison Group has been established to pursue those recommendations of the Group requiring cross-Government implementation. Ministerial colleagues have appointed representatives within their Departments who will act as advocates for the proposals of the Group.

It only remains to be seen whether this will find a spot on the shelves where it can hibernate, safely gathering dust for the next few decades or whether it will act as a catalyst for change in the Government’s attitude to small businesses such as pubs, hotels, nightclubs and off-licensees.

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