RGData has called for a levy to be imposed on the operators of out-of-town shopping centres as a way of ending the practice of free parking and maintaining fairer competition for town centre retailers.
Appearing before yesterday’s sitting of the Dáil committee on jobs and enterprise, RGData — the main representative body for the independent retail grocery sector — said it was seeking members’ support for national guidelines on car parking. It said retailers in town centres are suffering due to an inequality in parking regimes in built-up areas and out-of-town shopping centres
Director general Tara Buckley said that a paid parking system on all new developments in out-of-town/edge-of-town retail centres should be established, while local authorities should also attempt to address the issue of parking availability and accessibility to shops in town centres.
She said it could be left to the shopping centre operators to choose whether to pass on the cost of a levy to their customers.
In a wide-reaching submission, aimed at forcing the Government to introduce policies supportive of local entrepreneurs and independent grocers, RGData called for more to be done to tackle rogue traders and the black economy.
Ms Buckley noted that the independent retail sector provides 90,000 jobs and contributing €3.6bn a year to the economy, but said they are also paying “the lion’s share” of commercial rates in towns nationwide.
“Our members in Dublin are currently getting notices about their rates revaluations, and many are shocked to see significant increases in their rates bills,” she told committee members. “This must be tackled if you want these businesses to survive. We cannot afford 50% and 100% increases in rates during these tough times. Local authorities need to cut their costs and pass these savings on to struggling businesses.”
She said the committee should ensure that the current review of the JLC wage-setting mechanism doesn’t result in starting rates in the retail grocery sector that are higher than other retail shops.
“If this committee wants to support independent grocers, then we need your assistance in ensuring that legislation — currently before the House — provides support rather than a slap down,” she said.
RGData also reported the results of a survey of its members, yesterday, which show that 1,000 jobs had been created by 230 family-owned shops since 2011. Ms Buckley said it represented “a very positive message”.
“Independent shops do not roll down the shutters and shut up shop when times get tough. They roll up their sleeves and get on with creating and retaining jobs and adapting their businesses,” she said.
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