We hope everyone is keeping safe at this time.
Minister Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and REI were in communication over the weekend. The Minister and her staff are fully aware of the many issues which prevail. We have also contacted the Department of An Taoiseach for further clarity regarding your many queries.
We have had many queries in over the weekend and this morning. Below we try and answer them as best we can. We are not medical experts.
Should non-essential online websites shutdown?
This is a difficult question to answer. We are aware that retailers such as Brown Thomas and Eason have closed their online activity. They have taken a very responsible approach to the Government guidance. If you sell non-essential categories and want to remain open online, we suggest you review the matter every evening and change your online language from talking about commerce to being there to support your customers, implementing all health and safety protocols. It is not for us to advise online closure or otherwise. We have contacted the Department of Business again this morning and await more detailed guidance.
Is it not fair that distance sellers of non-essential products remain open and are benefiting commercially during a time of crisis?
It is very unfair. David Fitzsimons has communicated with the Minister about this specific matter over the weekend. We have suggested that logistics companies are decreed to cease to handle internationally sourced non-essential items. We have spoken to the logistics companies and they tell us that their has been a surge of non-essential parcels coming into the country from international sellers in recent days.
We have been advised by Government that we can only provide a service in an emergency and in the customers home, what should we do?
Some of the Government advice is simply unimplementable. By way of example, it is impossible for an optician to pack their technical equipment into a car and visit a patient. We are awaiting further guidance from the Department regarding these matters.
We don’t know if the product we sell online is essential or non-essential, what should we do?
This is a really hard question to answer. If a furniture retailer receives an order for a bed online, you could argue this is essential. You could argue that a box set for kids is an essential online order. You could equally argue that a plant is an essential item and gardening generally is a very important mental health support at a time of crisis. Our advice is to read the Government interpretation of what is essential and form your decisions based on that. If you continue to sell online, please change your language and review your policies every evening.
Our insurance policy provides that we must check our closed stores at least twice a week, is this essential?
Our advice is that checking your closed premises during this period is an essential activity. Write yourself a letter stating you must check your premises and thus if you are stopped you can furnish the letter and continue on with your business.
Our insurance company has told us that we are not covered for business disruption as our policy does not specify Covid-19.
We are aware of this and both we and the Alliance for Insurance Reform are in communication with Government and the Central Bank. It is our understanding that any insurance company who fails to pay out where a policy mentions the word “Disease”, will be forced to pay out. There will be further developments during the week.
Government should legislate that all sales and promotional activity is banned when we reopen, otherwise it will be carnage. Do you agree?
We don’t believe that Government will legislate in private commercial decisions of this nature. Furthermore in a global online world our Government cannot legislate for the actions of distance sellers. We believe the best solution to your liquidity issues once you reopen is for Government to provide business boost grants to see us through to recovery.
My landlord is demanding we pay our rent during the period of closure. What will we do?
We suggest you write to your landlord to tell them you are experiencing significant liquidity issues at this time. We are quietly working on a commercial rent solution. Without a meaningful solution we will simply not recover.
We are an essential retailer but are losing money. Will we be included in any Government recovery measures?
We are fundamentally aware that a number of essential retailers are losing money while remaining open. Pharmacy and Forecourt are examples of this. Retail sales have eroded and you are selling core essential items only – medicines and fuel. You are open for long hours and are experienced significant labour cost inflation. You have invested significantly in H&S measures. We are fundamentally aware of the situation and we have informed Government of these matters.
Will we have to pay rates for the period of closure when we reopen?
We are aware that Local Government are preparing a rates support measure which will potentially see rates written-off for a 12 month period for certain businesses. We have been in regular consultation with Local Government and they are fully aware of your suffering. They will require central Government funding to resolve this matter. If Local Authorities are to function and remain liquid themselves, Central Government must fund them immediately. We fully support their recovery plans.
We are a hardware company and sell Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), should we keep our stores open as well as our website?
The Government advice is that any seller of PPE should remain open. Potentially look at reducing down or closing sales of other product categories perhaps? Again this is not for us to decide.
We are closed but are deeply worried about our companies survival.
We understand and empathise with your situation. It is our job to work with Government on the recovery plan of all recovery plans. The Government will work tirelessly to endeavour to ensure that every company survives the crisis. While you hibernate we will be working tirelessly on your behalf. It is your job to now switch off and try and stop worrying. Please look after yourselves. We will figure this crisis out. We have your back and we will do everything we can do to support you. We will all work together to come up with a plan – Central Government, Local Government, LEOs, Landlords, Suppliers and you – we will all work together and support each other. We Will Prevail.
We will revert to everyone once we receive more guidance from the Department of Business.
The REI Team
Group Chief Executive