As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I am conscious of the impact of digital transformation for the retail sector. The growth in demand for shopping online is driving the retail sector more broadly to develop its online capability in order to enhance its competitiveness.
To enable retailers to increase their customer base and build a more resilient business, I introduced a new pilot Online Retail Scheme in 2018 administered by Enterprise Ireland. The Scheme, with a fund of up to €1.25m over two Calls, provided funding to 40 retailers across Ireland, with grants of between €10,000 and €25,000 on a 50 percent match fund basis. Eligible expenditure under the Scheme included activities required to strategically enhance retailer's online offering, and included: research, strategy development, implementation and relevant training. The Pilot Online Retail Scheme concluded this year we will review its effectiveness.
Additionally, the LEOs undertake a number of activities to encourage businesses to build their online presence and compete online. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme administered by the LEOs and funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is designed to help micro businesses trade online to boost their sales and reach new markets. The Scheme is a matched-funding opportunity with up to €2,500 available, with training provided by Local Enterprise Offices. Funding can be used towards eligible costs such as digital marketing strategies, e-commerce websites or app development.
LEO Measure 2 supports including training in digital marketing, management development, Lean4Micro, Productivity Voucher and mentoring are available to all sectors including retailers.
I recently announced the successful projects under the LEO Competitive Fund. One project - the eCommerce Cluster project has a primary objective to support and educate online retailers in the North-East. Led by LEO Monaghan, in collaboration with LEO Cavan, Louth and Meath, the project will bring online retailers in the these counties together, to share experience and best practice, access online expertise and support members to develop and grow their online business domestically and internationally.
As set out in Future Jobs Ireland 2019, all businesses, regardless of size or sector, in today’s digital environment need to focus on building competitive online capability. In line with this, my Department has commenced a study on the retail sector to understand the full extent and impact of disruption to pre-existing business models in light of digital transformation.
I will continue to engage with the retail sector in relation to business developmental needs and objectives through the Retail Consultation Forum.