A popular shopkeeper has blamed soaring energy costs for his decision to close his shop on Sundays.
Maurice Healy, who for decades has run a busy newsagents and post office on the main street in Ballincollig, west of Cork city, said it was a difficult decision to make but said he felt he had no option against the backdrop of “a prohibitive increase in energy costs”.
“We had looked at possible Sunday closures before but we were able to trade through those periods,” he said.
“But our average monthly electricity bill has gone from anywhere between €700 and €800 to €3,000, which I just paid the other day.
“I would prefer to keep the doors open on a Sunday but you also have to balance the books.
“I am over 40 years trading in Ballincollig on a Sunday but this is the final straw.”
The energy supports announced in Tuesday’s budget just didn’t go far enough to financially justify opening from 9am to 6pm on Sundays anymore, he said.
“Since we put up the notice in the shop, a lot of people have been upset by it,” he said.
“I would have a core group of customers from the local area who would traditionally walk into us on a Sunday, and they are upset by this.
“And it means that some staff have had their hours cut.
“It has been a difficult decision but I do look forward to a time when we might be able to reopen on Sundays again.”
Chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, Vincent Jennings, who represents 1,400 members employing up to 60,000 people, said Mr Healy’s case is “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“Retailers like Maurice spend a lifetime developing relationships with their customers and they don’t want to put barriers up to their customers so this was obviously a difficult decision for him to make,” he said.
“But he has done it in a way that inflicts the least hurt on his community, on the people he serves.
“Hopefully customers will understand the plight of shopkeepers in these kinds of situations.”
He said electricity is fast becoming one of the most expensive costs for independent retailers, alongside labour, and he welcomed the energy grants announced in the budget.
And he said government must fulfill its pledge to support through the energy crisis the businesses that it supported during Covid.
“The businesses we represent are viable businesses, the fundamentals are good, but it is this one thing, energy costs, that risks bringing them down,” he said.
In the absence of higher energy grants or supports, he said a simple change to the Finance Act, to allow retailers sell tobacco products above the price set by tobacco companies, would help boost retailers’ income.
Mr Healy stressed that it’s business as usual in the shop and post office, every other day of the week. The shop is open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, with the post office open from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays from 9am-1pm.