COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme

Overview

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The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment (DETE) has proposed a further call for Online Retail Scheme applications in response to the Covid-19 crisis and the continuing urgent need for retail companies to achieve a step change in online capability.

This is a Competitive Fund which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of DBEI with a total fund size of €5m.

Applications for funding are invited through a public call for submission of projects.

  • Call Open date: Tuesday 4th May 2021
  • Call Close date: Tuesday 25th May at 12pm (noon)

Due to a high level of interest strict adherence will be given to the deadline for receipt of applications together with statutory accounts.

The purpose of this fund is to enable Irish-owned retailers to enhance their digital capability and to develop a more competitive online offer that will enable an increase in their customer base and build a more resilient business in the domestic and global marketplace, both online and offline.

Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project eligible costs with a maximum grant of €40,000.

Typical elements involved in developing a sophisticated and transactional online presence include research, consultancy costs for strategy development, implementation and training.

For retailers starting out on the digital journey we have put together this Starter Guide outlining the broad range of considerations to be addressed.

Starter Guide

Who can apply?

The applicant must be an Irish-owned retail enterprise that had 10 or more full-time employees and has the potential to sustain or create jobs, generate growth in online transactions and with an ambition to internationalise their business in future. An application must be submitted in the name of a company registered with the Companies Registration Office and incorporated in the Republic of Ireland at the time of application. The business must also:

  • have an existing online presence (e.g. website or social media)
  • have a retail store on or before 29 February 2020 and derive the majority of company revenue from retailing products directly to individual consumers:
    • Where a company provides both products and services, the applicant must provide a breakdown of sales revenue showing that products account for more than 50% of total revenue for a recent trading period, which may be up to the call close date
    • Where a company has a mixture of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) operations, the applicant must provide a breakdown of sales revenue showing that sales from B2C activities account for more than 50% of total revenue for a recent trading period, which may be up to the call close date
  • employ at least 10 employees in the Republic of Ireland on a full-time equivalent basis on or before 29 February 2020 or has grown to that level since then
  • previous applicants of the Online Retail Scheme who were unsuccessful will be eligible to re-apply with a modified proposal under this call
  • a company/group may receive a maximum of two Online Retail Scheme approvals in a three year period. Successful applicants in previous calls are eligible to re-apply under this call, once they have fully completed the project previously approved, fully claimed all eligible costs before this call close date and propose a clearly different project to that undertaken under previous calls. This completion criteria also applies where related companies within a group structure wish to make an application.

The Scheme is NOT open to the following:

  1. Applications which do not propose company expenditure on the project of a minimum of €12,500 (grant of €10,000) will be considered ineligible (the grant will reimburse up to 80% of eligible expenditure)
  2. Projects which do not propose significant additional functionality to the online presence of the applicant company will be considered ineligible
  3. Applicants who were approved any other State or EU funding for the project for which they are seeking funding
  4. Companies where the principal business activity is the provision of financial services and products (e.g. mortgage, insurance brokers etc.)
  5. Companies where the principal business activity is the provision of a service (e.g. travel agents, mechanics, fitting of tyres, grooming and beauty services, hair salons, tattoo artists, funeral directors, medical, dental, veterinary, accountancy, legal services etc.)
  6. Car and vehicle dealerships
  7. Companies where the principal business activity is the wholesale or re-sale of goods to other businesses or construction trade professionals
  8. Companies primarily operating a business-to-business (B2B) model
  9. Companies which are primarily marketing or buying groups acting on behalf of retail stores
  10. Franchisees of retailers for whom the franchisor provides material online support. If you are operating under a franchise, please ensure that you provide clarity in your application as to the nature of your relationship with the franchisor i.e. what online and offline support is provided by them
  11. Companies active in the primary production of agricultural products, fishery and aquaculture
  12. Companies active in the provision of hospitality and leisure services (e.g. hotels, guest houses, restaurants, coffee shops etc.)
  13. Companies active in the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages where consumed on the retail premises
  14. Applications which include or relate to activities that Enterprise Ireland considers as ineligible or as involving an unacceptable reputational risk. Ineligible activities include activities relating to: the gambling sector, including ‘gaming’ (as defined in the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956), adult entertainment, tobacco products and cannabis-based products which are not authorised as medicines
  15. Companies which are currently clients of Enterprise Ireland and are eligible for other funding supports from Enterprise Ireland may not apply for this Scheme
  16. Companies which are part of a group structure with the same ultimate ownership may only submit one application for the group
  17. Companies which have already reached their De Minimis aid limit
  18. A company/group that has received two Online Retail Scheme approvals in a three year period
  19. Businesses registered with the CRO as a Sole Trader.

Eligible Activities

Typical elements involved in developing a sophisticated and transactional online presence include:

Research:

  • In-depth analysis of the company’s current and potential online presence and capabilities, target audience and brand. This research should help the applicant make informed decisions about e.g. optimisation of online marketing channels, web functionality, payment systems specification, catalogue presentation, supply chain management, consolidated inventory systems, order fulfilment and consumer experience.

Strategy development:

  • Development of a written digital strategy and a roadmap for implementation including resource and business process considerations
  • Identifying how the company’s value proposition should be demonstrated online, what aspects should be emphasised and how best to present this to online customers
  • Ensuring that the company’s online presence is being fully utilised / optimised to fulfil its overall potential, supporting the overall business strategy
  • Consideration of omnichannel offering (including marketplaces and social media).

Implementation:

  • Optimising the company’s online presence to ensure domestic and international visibility (e.g. web enhancement and localisation, associated business process enhancements, search engine optimisation etc.)
  • Enhancing related “back end” systems (e.g. product presentation, supply chain management, systems integration to improve consumer experience etc.).

Costs

Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project costs.

The minimum grant amount payable is €10,000 under this Scheme.

Therefore, applications which do not propose company expenditure on the project of a minimum of €12,500 will be considered ineligible (the grant will reimburse up to 80% of eligible expenditure as set out below).

All eligible costs are required to be directly related to the implementation of the workplan.

The workplan and all associated payments must be completed and grant claim submitted to Enterprise Ireland by 5th November 2021 as all Emergency Covid-19 financial assistance must be processed and paid in 2021. This necessitates a three to four month workplan turnaround time for this call.

Eligible costs include:

  • Salary costs of a senior project champion (manager level or above) in the applicant company to work with an External Service Provider on this project. The costs to support the salary of the project champion must not exceed the External Service Provider costs. A maximum of 1 internal champion per company is eligible for salary costs
  • Fees of established External Service Provider(s) to develop a digital strategy
  • Fees of established External Service Provider(s) to further develop / enhance the company’s transactional website or online presence. The grant must be used to introduce additional functionality and
  • Training Course fees are not eligible, however in-house training provided by an External Service Provider to enable a company develop and maintain a robust online retail operation are eligible. This could include training for CMS, eMarketing, catalogue management, e-commerce systems, SEO, etc.

Ineligible costs include:

  • Upgrades to existing online channels that would happen anyway or could be considered business as usual
  • The purchase of hardware e.g. laptops, studio equipment, cameras, leasing of vehicles, etc
  • The purchase of “off the shelf” software package licences or subscriptions e.g. for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Shopify monthly subscription fee, etc
  • The funding of online advertising campaigns e.g. pay per click/banner ad campaigns – Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
  • Offline marketing costs e.g. brochures, printing, materials for events, models, vehicle signage etc
  • External training course fees (unless provided in-house by your chosen External Service Provider)
  • Any expenditure incurred prior to the close of the call is not eligible for support.

Eligible Expenditures and Limits

Expenditure claimed must be incurred by the legal entity to which the grant is offered.

Salaries and Overheads:

  • Where the applicant is part of a group structure the Internal Champion must be employed by the applicant company and proof of payment from applicant company will be requested
  • The maximum eligible salary of the Internal Champion is €200 per day
  • Internal project champion costs may not exceed external consultancy costs
  • Only time spent on the proposed project by the Internal Champion is eligible
  • Claims for wages and salary support for the Internal Champion must be supported by payslips and proof of payment.

Consultancy Fees:

  • Where the applicant is part of a group structure External Service Provider fees must be invoiced to and paid by the applicant company and proof of payment from applicant company will be requested
  • The daily rate is to be inclusive of External service Provider’s time and all associated travel, subsistence and out-of-pocket expenses
  • Consultancy rate is a maximum of €900 per day, with no more than two consultants from the same firm being eligible at any one time at €900 each per day.

How do I apply?

Application must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System during the call open dates. Please note that together with the online application companies MUST provide latest statutory accounts (no more than 2 years old) directly to Enterprise Ireland before the call close date. Upon submission of the Online Application Form you will receive an email with details of where to submit these accounts.

apply here

How is my application evaluated?

Enterprise Ireland will carry out an evaluation of all eligible applications using the following criteria:

Evaluation Criteria

Quality of the proposal and the potential impact on the business demonstrated in the proposal

Impact of proposed changes on the competitive position and viability of the company

Ambition to internationalise the business

The company's financial track record

TOTAL:

Weighting

35%

35%

20%

10%

100%

For information, download Scoring Criteria for Online Retail Scheme.

All applicants will be notified by email of the result of this assessment following evaluation of the call in early July.

When is the call closing date?

  • Call Open date Tuesday 4th May 2021
  • Call Close date: Tuesday 25th May at 12pm (noon)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Webinar - Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme May 2021 Call

The webinar below, recorded for the May 2021 call for applications, outlines the application and evaluation process.

Slide Presentation from Online Retail Scheme Webinar on 12th May, 2021.

Key Contact

For more information, please email: retail@enterprise-ireland.com