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Margaret O'Brien . Photograph by Arthur Ellis.

Golden opportunity to support business in Ennis

CHECK your wallets or down the back of the sofa and you might just come across some gold. Over €65,000 worth of Ennis Gold vouchers sold last year have yet to be used at retailers in the county capital, Ennis Chamber have confirmed.
The Chamber are encouraging people to redeem these vouchers in the coming weeks, giving the public an opportunity to buy something new while also supporting local businesses, many of which have been affected by Covid-19.
Ennis Chamber CEO Margaret O’Brien says that with over 70 local businesses aligned to that scheme, the choice of where to spend those vouchers is huge. She said, “Of the vouchers sold last year over €65,000 Euro worth have yet to be redeemed. Spending those vouchers now will pump cash into the businesses where they are spent. We urge people to spend their vouchers over the coming weeks, local businesses will be immensely grateful to receive them.”
A business boost is even more vital in the wake of Covid-19, with the CEO also expressing fears that a failure to provide adequate government financial support to the SME sector in Clare will result in “significant” job losses.
Margaret O’Brien has welcomed the launch of the government’s Re-Start Grant Scheme, however she says more substantial funding is needed for SMEs who have been affected by Covid-19.
Ennis Chamber wrote to members on Friday to provide a link to the application form for the grant, to offer support when applying for the grant and to encourage its members to take time over the weekend to complete the self -declaration form and to file a grant application as promptly as possible.
Ms O’Brien said, “We were delighted to engage with and to support members over the weekend and to then get feedback from so many members on Monday to say they had taken our advice to get their application in early. We are confident that Clare County Council, tasked with the administration of the scheme, will process payments in an efficient and timely manner.
She added that while Ennis Chamber welcomes the launch of the Re-Start Grant Scheme, together with the network of 41 Chambers nationally, it continues to lobby through Chambers Ireland for more substantial funding to help the SME sector not just to recover, but to continue to deal with on-going fallout from necessary compliance with restrictive and costly business guidelines.
Quoting CSO figures, Ms O’Brien stated, “Before the COVID-19 crisis SME employment in Clare stood at 24,451 representing 82.5% of all employment across the county. If central government fails to provide the level of financial support required to get the SME sector back and up and running in a sustainable manner, our fear is that the attrition rate in terms of job losses will be significant.”
Gwen Culligan, Chair of Ennis Chamber Retail Group said, “Retailers within our group have been pro-active throughout the crisis with many taking the time to improve their online offering, with a click and collect service or a delivery service by post. We are grateful for the supports offered by LEO Clare and I know anecdotally many of our members availed of key supports including the Online Trading Voucher, the Business Continuity Grant and in some instances mentoring.”
Gwen added, “We are facing very challenging times ahead, local retail businesses were already under pressure from international and national online retailers and the restrictions we will have to work under when we re-open, will undoubtedly put additional pressure on our ability to trade competitively and profitably. That said, we have survived seemingly unsurmountable challenges in the past and once again we need to rise to the challenges ahead.”
Gwen Culligan acknowledged that the ‘Re-Start Grant scheme will provide cash starved businesses with some vital liquidity as they once again open their doors.

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