The average retailer still relies on the six weeks around Christmas for up to 30% of its annual trade, according to the Ibec group, Retail Ireland.
The sector has benefitted from rising wages and an increase in disposable income across the economy in recent years.
However, footfall on the streets of towns and cities across the country has been falling with the growing popularity of online shopping.
“In terms of the end of year performance, it’s crucial. The challenge is in attracting disposable income that exists in the consumer market,” Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland said.
“There are 2.3 million people at work across the economy. Wages are increasing and disposable incomes are up, but retail is under pressure from variety of other sectors to attract that disposable income. It’s crucial for Irish retailers when they review their annual numbers,” Mr Burke added.
The sector is facing into the annual ‘Black Friday’ shopping phenomenon which is described as something of a ‘double-edged sword’ for the retailers as they try to strike a balance between attracting customers with discounts while making some return at the same time.
Mr Burke was speaking today as Retail Ireland launched the first national apprenticeship scheme for the retail sector.
“It’s aimed at people who work in the sector and have ambitions to be managers. It’s a level 6 programme aimed at retail supervisors. We’re looking at the entry grade to retail management.
“From an employer’s perspective, it’s a talent identification tool – an opportunity to put their people on a path towards development and management roles in the future.”
The skills involved in the programme include human and digital skills and retail specific knowledge.
It also offers the opportunity for participants to move into a retail degree programme.
“There’s a clear trajectory here towards senior maangement role in industry. We’re trying to build the future leaders of the retail sector with the skills required,” Mr Burke concluded.