THE thousands of Limerick retailers classified as non-essential under the Level Five Covid restrictions are still in danger of missing out on their vital pre-Christmas trade.
Their customers are there and still need their products but, with doors closed, hard-fought custom can seep away.
People still need gifts, clothes, footwear, books, office supplies and everything else. We may need them now more than ever, as the constant stream of delivery vans.
So how can small businesses get in on the online act, keeping relationships with customers alive and positioning themselves to survive and thrive in this pandemic and beyond?
Seven in ten Irish adults have made a conscious effort to support local businesses due to the impact of Covid-19, a survey by iReach has found.
“Shop local” is a sentiment small businesses can tap into. If someone googles “bookshops near me”, there are simple steps you can take to make sure your shop is found. And it doesn’t even require a website.
“If you are a small local business, you can go to ‘Google my business’ and create your free business profile there,” says Google’s director of small business in Ireland, Alice Mansergh.
“Add your address, opening hours, phone number and photos of your business and you can even specify whether you offer click and collect or kerb-side pick-up during lockdown.
This first dipping of your toe into online takes about 15 minutes.
“This is going to ensure that if your local customers are searching for you, your details are compelling and accurate and up to date on Google Search and Google Maps,” says Mansergh.
Google has also launched Grow with Google, a package of free training, advertising credits and grants to help Irish small businesses to recover from the effects of the pandemic. On the grow.google/intl/ie website, small businesses will find video tutorials on how to set up a business profile, or create a website that sells.
And if you don’t already have a website, it’s now easier than ever to get one. If you have one and it’s effectively just a brochure, it’s time to up your game.
The Limerick Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is a good place to start. Its Trading Online Vouchers assist businesses with up to ten employees to make online trading easier and more profitable. Businesses can claim up to €2,500, with co-funding of ten per cent from themselves, towards developing an online presence.
They must participate in training first, however, with courses on everything from developing a website to digital marketing, social media and search engine optimisation.
The Government says the grant will cut the cost for a small business to develop online trading by up to 90 per cent. And, with Covid-19, Irish small businesses appear to be receptive. Local Enterprise Offices have approved some 9,920 such vouchers already this year, which is 8,790 more than in 2019.
Read the Limerick Post Newspaper’s guide to local retailers HERE