A job in retail won’t make you rich, but it’s an industry that needs to recruit new people. The most recent figures from the Central Statistical Office on job vacancies in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles is 3,300.
Arnold Dillon, Director of Retail Ireland, said: “There are significant challenges in the retail industry in terms of trying to recruit staff. Some are linked to the extended lockdown and how many people changed their lives during that time. They moved or tried to change careers. “
Dillon says there is no incentive for people who have returned to other parts of Europe to come back here.
“Some countries in Europe are stronger economically. In addition, there are problems with living here in Ireland. Even though the wages and salaries would be good by European standards, there is the high cost of living when it comes down to it. It’s about renting in Dublin and even places all over the country. There’s also the cost of childcare, “he says.
He adds that some vacant positions will “probably have to be filled by workers from other countries.” Retail, the country’s largest private sector employer, employs nearly 300,000 workers, three in four of whom are based outside Dublin.
For John Breen, who was born in Cork and bookseller at Waterstones on Patrick Street in Cork, the good news is that the sectors with the highest annual volume increases were books (as well as newspapers and stationery), up by 48.6%.
But having been closed for five cumulative months during the pandemic so far, Breen says it was difficult for the Cork branch of the bookstore “because we are not a store with our own online presence”.
He adds: “But things have picked up for Christmas. However, the UK supply chain has been disrupted (because of Brexit) but every bookseller in the country is feeling it. We are suffering to some extent because of the global paper shortage. That means publishers have shorter runs. Where I see (a loss of business) is when people looking for a book find out we don’t have it, they don’t Sometimes they don’t ask us to order it and say they’ll order it online themselves. I really think that’s something the business needs to accommodate. “
Waterstones in Cork have recently hired a number of full time staff as they have lost some staff. “We are still hiring temporary staff at Christmas but it’s only for a few weeks. I wouldn’t say there are a ton of jobs at the company right now. There are about 20 people in the store. . That said, Dubrays recently opened two bookstores here; one in Cork and one in Dundrum town center. “
As every bookstore competes with Waterstones (even Tesco, Breen says, as the supermarket chain sells books), he’s excited to see “any book chain grow. That means a healthy readership and market.”
Breen began working part-time in the book business for a brief period in 1988 when Waterstones opened in Cork. Before that, he taught for a while, having obtained an arts degree from UCC. But his subjects, English and Spanish, were not in demand.
“After a few years unemployed trying to find work, Waterstones opened at UCC. I applied for a job there and ended up working there for ten years. loved being able to pay my bills and loved working at UCC. We I lost that contract in 2003 so I moved to Patrick Street. It was a big change. I wasn’t selling college books but rather street stuff. I used to work in a bigger store and I’m still there. “
When asked if he aspires to be the store manager, Breen said his skills “don’t go in that direction.” His own skills include getting along with people, recommending books to them, and handling account sales.
“Almost all schools in Cork have accounts with us. (This applies to novels, plays, and poetry books rather than standard textbooks). We provide books to HSE and county libraries. “
In addition to being at the counter, Breen also works in the back office “doing invoices and account sales.” It’s very simple because most of them are computerized. We also have reinforcements because we are a very large company. Much of the administration is done in Solihull, near Birmingham. And a lot of things would work from Piccadilly. “
An avid reader, Breen enjoys hosting Writers’ Events at The Cork Store. “We are incredibly lucky that there are so many writers in Cork who are truly generous with their time. We’re not entirely relying on bringing in writers from Dublin or from overseas. We have built relationships with writers outside of Cork. ; people like John Connolly, Kevin Barry, and Lisa McInerney. They have organized great events with us. You have to remember that bookstores don’t pay writers to organize events. The events are considered to promote their books. Lisa will be coming from Gort on the drop of a hat and Kevin is coming to us from Sligo. “
Breen enjoyed interviewing Lisa McInerney and Conal Creedon recently at Waterstones. “It was supposed to be Lisa and Kevin but Kevin couldn’t make it. I don’t use the term lightly but Cork legend Cónal Creedon stepped in. I read all of his books. Like someone said it to me, you can stick a stick out of any combination of these writers and get them talking. “
In terms of training future readers (and writers), Breen is confident that they will continue to come to the store. While online sales are competitive, Breen was “quickly disillusioned with the idea years ago that the internet was coming in and kids were watching video games all the time.” , about five and six. As soon as they walked through the door, the children moved away from their parents and ran towards the children’s section. Kids love this section. ”
The future of printing looks reasonably bright.