Wednesday 13 November 2019

Budget 2016: The independent bookshop owner

'Budgets are difficult for small business. You expect to be ignored and 90pc of the time you are.'

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A bookshop owner who made the decision to trade as a limited company feels that this "protective measure" may place him in an undesirable category when it comes to the Budget.

Bob Johnston opened the Gutter Bookshop six years ago after working in the book trade for almost 25 years. While working for Waterstones in London, he visited Ireland for a weekend and "fell in love with Dublin".

"I transferred to Waterstones in Jervis and then on to Dawson St," the UK born shop owner told

"After a few years back in the UK, I came back to run Hughes and Hughes in Stephen's Green and then moved to their head offices as buyer. It was at that point I decided to make my move as an independent buyer."

The establishment of the store on Dublin's Cow Lane was attempted "in the middle of the recession", which Bob feels "was probably both the worst and the best time".

The leap of faith was a success and a second branch of Gutter was opened in Dalkey in November 2013.

"We now trade as a limited company - this decision made in order to protect myself in order to protect myself in away, to cope with the challenges of setting up a new business," said Bob.

"You never quite feel secure - and yet I still say it's the best decision I ever made"

Bob hopes that small businesses will see some additional support on Budget Day, "that the Government will give something back", but thinks he may not see any rumoured benefits himself.

"As we've listed as a limited company we would not fall into that category likely to see support. We employ only five people but we're not farmers or self employed so we're not likely to benefit."

Small businesses "don't have the ability to shout as loud as others", said Bob, and annual budgets tend to be difficult as a rule.

"Very few tax breaks have been offered to small Irish businesses over the last few years. We've struggled, and not least in terms of finding customers to spend money. For all the the talk of incentives there's not an awful lot that's being offered to us.

"You do your best and you pay your taxes but it's tough. All the incentives seem to be passed on to entice the big corporations to/in Ireland.

"You [small businesses] expect to be ignored and 90pc of the time you are."

Bob said that he would like to see an overhaul of the existing business rate model that is in place - "created at a time when online retail was non existent"

After rent and wages, the bookshops cites this rate his second highest cost, with one premises costing him near €7,000 annually.

"It would be a much better system if everyone in business contributed towards these taxes," he said. 

The entrepreneur believes that "retail doesn't excite banks or the Government".

"We're not an exciting IT start-up selling a new app, we're selling goods.

"It doesn't seem to be that well supported if it's not a hot topic - it gets swept under the carpet," he said.

Another hope Bob has for Tuesday's announcement is that the USC charge for everyone is reduced, "so that people have more money in their pocket".

"Then Irish consumers are more likely to spend more in the run up to Christmas," he said.

Video by Jason Kennedy

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