Enterprise Ireland launches Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme

A lifeline and a €2 million fund to boost Irish Retailers' eCommerce capabilities.

Online Retail Scheme

Enterprise Ireland have just announced an unprecedented scheme to give Irish retailers support for their online channels. The Covid-19 Online Retail scheme, proposed by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, provides a fund of €2 million to help retailers in Ireland to improve their online capability.

Successful applicants will receive up to €40,000 or 80% funding for an approved project plan. Enterprise Ireland have stated that they will favour projects which have a strong strategic plan designed to boost long term capabilities.

If you are a retailer in Ireland who would like to take your eCommerce channel to the next level, this programme may be a rare opportunity to avail of substantial funding to reboot your digital strategy and grow your online sales.

Or if like many companies in Ireland you are urgently looking to the online space as a way of surviving through this pandemic, this scheme can help you revamp your current website by adding functionality such as online ordering, click and collect, stock checking, live chat or video content.

Did you know that in Ireland, 75% of all online sales purchases go abroad? This scheme is also a fantastic way to find new international customers and start building your export business.

So does your company have an ambition to sell more online? Where could an innovative digital strategy and a top-class online store take your business?

Our easy to follow infographic tells you all the essential information you need to know about the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme. Click HERE to see it in full size.

Necessity is the mother of all invention (Plato)

The Covid-19 virus has changed the business landscape in unimaginable ways. Most of this has been in the form of reduced activity, with many businesses adversely affected. Some companies have the luxury of being able to pivot in different ways to survive, or even thrive in this pandemic.

In years to come, we will look back at this period as one of huge change and rapid adjustment.  3-4 years of digital transformation have taken place in the space of 6-8 weeks as people have had to rapidly change how they work and communicate. This includes teams in just about every industry; all ages, all disciplines – everyone has rowed in and accepted new ways of doing things. Entire industries have reinvented how they do things including fitness professionals, doctors, supermarkets, distilleries and tutors among others. Even in our home lives, families and specifically grandparents have embraced technology quickly and shown themselves to be quick learners.

If you are a “bricks and mortar” retailer who has neglected the online space or if you have had some success online but would like to go to the next level – now is the time to act. There is an old Chinese proverb that says – the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the next best time is today!

So, What Now?

At Matrix, we are encouraging all Irish Retailers to consider this scheme and to promptly make a decision on whether to apply.

The bad news is that the time frame is tight, the application process will require some work and competition will be tough for such an attractive programme. The good news is that the scheme itself is unprecedented in its generosity and would be a game-changer for any retail business.

Matrix has been on the approved agency panel for Enterprise Ireland for many years and we can help with the necessary paperwork and application process. A track record of improving the eCommerce sales of leading Irish brands means that Matrix understands what it takes to sell online successfully.

Any Irish retailer who is interested in the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme, should do the following:

  1. Read all available literature on the programme and become familiar with the objectives to see if they are aligned
  2. Check eligibility criteria and rules
  3. Review evaluation and scoring
  4. Identify an internal champion or driver
  5. Engage with a digital agency who can understand your business, help with the application form and who can deliver a wide ranging eCommerce plan from start to finish

If you would like to start a conversation about potentially applying for the scheme, please email ecommerce@matrixinternet.ie

A Broad Overview of the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme

Here are the broad strokes of how Enterprise Ireland have setup the scheme:

In one line:

  • A grant to fund the majority of a project that would give any Irish retailer a top class eCommerce channel.

What are EI trying to do for Irish Retailers?

  • Boost their eCommerce platform and capabilities
  • Give them a long term strategy for online growth
  • Make them more visible to domestic and international audiences
  • Develop a competitive online offer


  • The application opens on the 29th of April and closes at 3.00 pm on Wednesday 27th of May
  • Enterprise Ireland have advised participants to start the application process as soon as possible


  • An online application system on the Enterprise Ireland website
  • Supporting information (including 2 years accounts) and plan are required

Who is it for?

  • Irish owned retail businesses
  • 10 or more employees
  • Potential for online sales growth

Who is excluded?

  • Franchisees
  • Agriculture or fisheries businesses
  • Hospitality and leisure sector
  • Gambling and some other areas

What work does it cover?

  • Research and discovery work related to online sales
  • Development of a complete eCommerce strategy
  • Improving the online presence and visibility to domestic and international audiences
  • Enhancing back-end and operational systems and integration work
  • In-house training
  • Salary costs of an internal project champion

What work is not covered?

  • Paid online advertisements
  • Website improvements which would happen anyway
  • Off the shelf software or subscriptions

How is it scored?

  • Applications will be scored by EI as part of a competitive process
  • Scoring as follows
    • 40% – Quality of proposal and impact on business
    • 40% – Expected Impact on viability of business
    • 10% – International ambition
    • 10% – Financial track record

Further information

Full information can be accessed on the Enterprise Ireland website here >>
In addition, a full presentation covering the webinar that Enterprise Ireland did on the topic can be found here >>
A full list of FAQs provided by Enterprise Ireland can be found here >>

On Friday 17th April 2020, Enterprise Ireland hosted a webinar and offered clarification on some issues through a question and answer session. Here are some of the questions/answers from that session. We will add to this list as new FAQs emerge in the process.

  • Q. How difficult is it to complete the form?
    A. EI have said that the form is complex and will need careful planning. They strongly recommend starting the application process and form as early as possible.
  • Q. How much emphasis is on export?
    A. For this scheme, Enterprise Ireland have said that it is enough for participants to have “ambition” to export now or in the future. This initiative from Enterprise Ireland has a mission to support and to solidify Irish Retailers in a broad sense. 
  • Q. Can previous EI scheme participants apply for this Covid-19 scheme?
    A. Yes, if the previous project has been completed in full, then a new application will be allowed. 
  • Q. What about previous “bricks and mortar” retailers who want to convert to an online only format?
    A. Enterprise Ireland have said that they will consider this and revert with a clarification. However, one criteria for the scheme is that participants must have 10 employees. EI have expressed an interest in any business that feels they have an USP or a unique offering. Additionally, EI have said that this is open to retailers in both rural and urban areas. 
  • Q. Would the scheme support a click and collect development project?
    A. EI have said that they will consider such an application on it’s merits and to see if it is in the broad spirit of the Covid-19 Retail programme.
  • Q. Could this work for a property business?
    A. No, the programme is aimed at the retail sector in Ireland.
  • Q. Is the 10 employee stipulation a hard rule?
    A. EI have said that they will consider a combination of part time and full time employees. 
  • Q. How many years do the accounts need to cover for the application?
    A. 2 years of business accounts need to accompany each application. 
  • Q. What about business models and industries not mentioned in the material so far?
    A. EI would like people to email in any queries about such industries. 
  • Q. How does the internal champion work with the agency?
    A. An internal champion is allowed, to a maximum of 200 euro per day and this cost must not exceed the cost of the agency work. 
  • Q. Does the provider need to be based in Ireland?
    A. No, the agency and provider can be outside of Ireland.
  • Q. Why doesn’t EI support Google Ads?
    A. EI would prefer to invest in internal capabilities and strategic pieces that will endure, unlike paid ads or day to day marketing costs which expire immediately. The EU also has a state aid restriction that covers that. 
  • Q. Can internal staff carry out all of the work?
    A. No, an internal champion is allowed but this can not exceed the cost of an external agency.
  • Q. What service provider can be used?
    A. Enterprise Ireland has an approved list of agencies, this is available on the EI website.
  • Q. What about endeavours that have already commenced?
    A. Enterprise Ireland stated that they will not financially support work that has already happened, but if a new part of an existing programme has not commenced, it may be considered as part of this eCommerce focussed programme. 

If you would like to start a conversation about potentially applying for the scheme, please email ecommerce@matrixinternet.ie

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