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Applications open for national scheme to help Small Businesses trade online

Dublin, 1 July 2014

· 1,000 firms will benefit from digital vouchers by year end after successful pilot in Dublin area.

· Minister Rabbitte urges businesses to apply now and seize an advantage over competitors from home and abroad.

From today, 1 July 2014, small businesses throughout Ireland can apply to the Government for digital vouchers to help their businesses trade online. Announcing the Trading Online Voucher Scheme, Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte T.D., said that 1000 vouchers will be available for qualifying businesses through the network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) between now and the end of 2014 with more on offer next year. Businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to €2500 as Government has allocated €5 million for the rollout of the trading online voucher scheme.

“We want this scheme to help small businesses grow their Sales, Exports and ultimately Jobs. This will be the test of success, not the take up of vouchers” said Minister Rabbitte. “We have successfully piloted the new scheme in Dublin City, and six months on, early research into the business outcomes has shown promise.” Key findings to date are:

o 7 out of 10 companies said that the voucher application process has already helped them in determining how online trading would fit into their business.

o 70% of companies see more customer inquiries, 55% have had more sales.

o Most companies are primarily trading domestically, but export expectations have increased with business expecting to get 30% of sales from export markets within 6 months. UK is by far the most important export market initially.

o Business owners and staff are devoting more time to trading online. 60% expect to need to recruit with 12 months.

“The results so far are positive, and we can expect these findings to improve over time as businesses involved in the pilot stage embed online trading within their overall business model. My Department will continue to review the scheme and improve it iteratively.”

One of the voucher scheme recipients, Darren Lennox from The Billiard Company, commented on his experience of the pilot programme “By taking part in this voucher scheme it has helped us take stock of the overall direction of the business which has enabled us to identify new opportunities whilst improving our current product and service.”

Natasha Obernik of NJO Designs Ltd., craft jewellery, added “Participating in the Trading Online Voucher Scheme has allowed us to introduce new products to export markets faster than previously”.

The LEOs were chosen as an ideal partner to deliver the Trading Online Voucher Scheme, as they are focussed on getting business supports directly into the communities where small businesses operate. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is a new ‘product’ for these new organisations. The pilot voucher scheme demonstrated that it has the potential to open up a whole new customer base for the LEO service, bringing them closer to businesses in their area and allowing businesses to benefit from locally based experience.

The South Cork Local Enterprise Office has recently opened for applications for the new Trading Online Voucher Scheme and say that the reaction has proven extremely positive. Sean O’Sullivan, Head of Local Enterprise there said “Demand from small local businesses to participate has been high and, within days of making our first two pre-application training programmes available, almost 300 businesses had registered. The scheme is allowing the team here in South Cork to engage with a wider range of companies than ever before. Trading online is not only a big opportunity for small businesses; it is more and more becoming an essential part of business strategy. With a little help and some financial support we can ensure that these businesses benefit as a result."

The voucher scheme is an initiative under the National Digital Strategy, published 1 year ago in July 2013. Research published then as part of the Strategy indicated that digital contributed 4.4% to Ireland’s GDP in 2012 and is supporting up to 95,000 jobs. The digital part of the economy in Ireland is growing at 16% per year - that is just over 5 times the rate of growth of the rest of the economy[1].
ENDS



Note to Editors
It is estimated that Irish consumers spend just under €6bn online annually, of which 60-70% goes overseas[2]. In a small open economy like Ireland there will naturally be importation. However, if our assumption that the internet continues to be a central part of consumers buying behaviour into the future, we must find ways to support Irish business redressing this imbalance.

Our starting point is similar to other OECD countries. In Ireland today less than 1 in 4 small or micro businesses[3] are selling to customers online. For Ireland, this level of penetration is simply not good enough. We need to create a more supportive environment which encourages those businesses that are ready to trade online to do so.

European Commission research suggests that companies which develop a meaningful online trading presence grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people. For Ireland we can add the positive impact on our balance of trade.

Further information on the scheme and other opportunities open to small businesses is available at http://www.localenterprise.ie/.


 

[1] Assuming a growth rate of 3% GDP
[2] The Second UPC report on Ireland's Digital Future
[3] There are around 170,000 small businesses in Ireland
 
 

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