The Irish SME Association has today launched its "Shop Local Not Just for Christmas" campaign, which highlights the importance of supporting Irish businesses throughout the year. 

ISME said that every €10 spent on Irish products generates more than €40 of benefit for related businesses, and stressed the importance of shopping local to maintain employment in local communities. 

As businesses face into the Christmas shopping period, ISME is encouraging consumers to not only shop locally the festive season, but to make a conscious effort to continue to support Irish businesses next year. 

It said that SMEs here are facing significant pressure with business closures and other restrictions associated with Covid-19. This is further amplified by rising insurance costs and Brexit. 

"It is more important than ever before to shop local, and this year we want to encourage consumers to continue to support Irish SMEs beyond the Christmas period and throughout 2021," Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME, said. 

"The difficulties faced by Irish businesses since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic are very serious," he said.

"SMEs have had to make significant investments in enabling online offerings, purchasing equipment and implementing procedures to adhere to Government guidelines, including screens, PPE and outdoor dining facilities," he added. 

Neil McDonnell said that since March, Irish consumers have largely moved away from international online shopping, as 53% of consumers estimate that they have done most of their online shopping with Irish SMEs. 

"Buying Irish-made goods and services helps to ensure their quality, traceability, and value-for-money. Over the coming months, we are calling on Irish consumers to continue this trend and make that effort to shop locally, both online and in person," he added. 

Meanwhile, Arnold Dillon, the director of Retail Ireland, said he believes that extending shop opening hours in the run up to Christmas is a good idea and one that many shops are considering. 

Mr Dillon said there is pent up consumer demand as a result of Level 5 restrictions and retailers are anxious to manage crowds safely over the course of December. 

But he said that 24 hour opening hours will not be feasible for many smaller shops, adding that many of them will be examining the option of extending their hours for seven days a week over the whole of December.