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Retailers turn focus to online operations in a bid to tap into the €4.1bn market

Sixty-four per cent of businesses intend to upgrade their online presence in the next 18 months, with the Irish online market predicted to grow to €21bn by 2017.

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RETAILERS ARE INCREASINGLY focusing on developing their online presence in a bid to tap into the €4.1bn online market in Ireland, which is predicted to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Retail Ireland, the IBEC group representing the retail sector, has published its Online Retailing Survey 2013 which shows that 84 per cent of businesses in Ireland have an online presence and 64 per cent intend to “upgrade” that presence in the next 18 months. The survey involved retailers with over 500 stores and 18,000 employees in Ireland; most of which said they advertised on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and more than half of which announced plans to develop smart phone applications and tablet technology.

The Digital Hub Development Agency Annual Report 2012 predicts that the Irish online market will grow to €21bn by 2017.

“Irish retailers are now sharply focused on catering to the digital consumer as well as the traditional customer. It’s a huge market, estimated at a value of €4.1bn in Ireland alone and the retailers surveyed reported that 15 per cent of their sales now come from online sales,” Retail Ireland Director Stephen Lynam said. “There is huge scope to increase online sales. The majority of retailers surveyed are offering discounts, special deals, free shipping and larger product ranges to attract online shoppers.”

However, Lynam also underlined a number of barriers to online trading that are perceived by retailers. These included delivery costs (36 per cent) and initial set-up costs (28 per cent), while just under a quarter cited poor broadband speeds, competition and the lack of post codes in Ireland as barriers. Lynam said many retailers are attempting to address these challenges themselves but called don the Government support to provide high speed broadband through the accelerated implementation of the National Broadband Plan and speed up plans to introduce a comprehensive post-code system in Ireland to help with deliveries.

“Retail is one of Ireland’s largest sectors, employing over 250,000 people. The sector has faced major challenges in recent years, most predominantly slow domestic demand. Given that the sector is under huge pressure, it needs every support possible to help it overcome the very challenging market conditions,” Lynam said.

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