SME Recovery Ireland has urged consumers to support local business when purchasing online over the coming weeks and in the run-up to Christmas. 

The group's call comes as the country enters the first day of nationwide Level 5 restrictions, which are set to leave the country's SME sector in a "precarious position" over the next six weeks. 

The chair of SME Recovery Ireland, John Moran, said that once again we need to ensure local shops are prioritised when making purchasing decisions. 

"Today's Level 5 restrictions are yet another crushing blow to Ireland's decimated SME sector. Businesses across the country are forced to close their doors for a second time, wondering how and when they will be able to reopen fully," Mr Moran said.

"After the initial lockdown, we witnessed first-hand the emotional, physical and financial efforts from business owners to reopen and operate safely while the country continued to suppress Covid-19.

"The sad reality of this second closure, not of their own making, is that many of those businesses may never reopen," he added.

Mr Moran also noted that 70% of Irish consumers' online spending goes to international multinationals. 

"That is valuable cash leaving the country at a time when we need it most to work in our economy. With simple choices, Irish consumers can reverse this trend. The run up to Christmas is the perfect opportunity for to gift back to our local shops by choosing them instead of the large multinational retailers," he urged.

He said that even businesses with limited online retailing can be reached via email, social media or by phone to see how purchases can be arranged. 

"Each purchase we make may seem small to us but collectively if we all change our habits this year, we can make a huge positive impact," he said.

"One small purchase can start a positive reaction like a small pebble in a big pond. Saving our local shop also helps other Irish businesses in the same supply chain. Behind every business are the families of the owner and their employees. We save Christmas for those families too," he added.

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Meanwhile, the Deputy Chair of Retail Excellence said it is vital that SMEs and local businesses make it easy for customers to get in touch and encourage them to shop local.

Jean McCabe, owner of the Willow clothes shop in Ennis, said there is a real appetite among the public to ensure they support their communities. 

She said customers are more mindful of where they shop at the moment and businesses that are not online can use other avenues to engage with customers.  

Ms McCabe also said there are challenges across the board for business, because production has been so low in China. 

She said that she has found it more difficult to get product because there is no extra stock and gifting for Christmas. 

But she added that "no one has killed Christmas just yet" and she is confident that retailers will re-open before Christmas.