Penneys, Brown Thomas and H&M among retailers that lobbied for 12-month rates break

Penneys, Brown Thomas and H&M were among the dozens of retail brands to lobby senior government ministers for a 12-month commercial rates cut, warning that without "urgent and decisive action", retail businesses would close.
Penneys, Brown Thomas and H&M among retailers that lobbied for 12-month rates break
The Retailers Rates Action Group, which included Penneys, sent a letter to Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Paschal Donohoe asking to defer commercial rates for 12 months. They were deferred for three months.
The Retailers Rates Action Group, which included Penneys, sent a letter to Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Paschal Donohoe asking to defer commercial rates for 12 months. They were deferred for three months.

Penneys, Brown Thomas and H&M were among the dozens of retail brands to lobby senior government ministers for a 12-month commercial rates cut, warning that without "urgent and decisive action", retail businesses would close.

The group also called for a 50% commercial rates cut for the six months after the rate-free period "to allow businesses to restore their financial security".

A letter sent to Eoghan Murphy, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was signed by the Retailers Rates Action Group, which counts Penneys, Brown Thomas, H&M, JD Sports, Easons, B&Q and Burger King among its members.

Other high street brands to sign the letter included Arnotts, Caffé Nero, Clarks, Costa Coffee, Decathlon, Dixons Carphone, Holland & Barrett, Iceland, KFC, Lush, New Look, Regatta Outdoors, River Island, Schuh and Tommy Hilfiger. Some 51 retailers backed the call.

It is estimated the cancellation of all local authority rates for retail businesses for a 12-month period would cost the exchequer more than €730 million.

The letter, released to the Irish Examiner under a Freedom of Information request, was sent on March 19, the day after Penneys and Brown Thomas closed due to Covid-19, and just days before the likes of Costa Coffee and Burger King followed suit.

It pointed to a British government decision to suspend rates for 12 months from mid-March and said the same was needed to safeguard Irish retail.

"We, of course, fully support the Government regarding the actions you are taking to ensure the safety of the Irish public. However, one of the unavoidable consequences of these actions, is the substantial disruption and decline in the Irish retail sector, with many retailers already having had to close nationwide," the group said.

"Since the imposition of the social distancing measures, without the normal level of footfall throughout the country, turnover in our stores has plummeted to incredibly low and unsustainable levels. Yet at the same time, we are essentially being made to pay rates liabilities, as if these were normal market conditions.

"Quite simply, unless the Government takes immediate action to help the retail sector through this crisis, there is likely to be a considerably smaller sector left at the end of the pandemic."

The day after the letter was sent, the ministers allowed local authorities to defer commercial rates for a three-month period.

Doing so recognised "unprecedented challenges", Mr Donohoe said at the time.

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