Tough times for local retailers

Dee Ryan, Limerick Chamber CEO

AS LOCAL retailers opened their shops for the first time in three months, Limerick Chamber issued a stark warning that unless customers return to spend in-store, some businesses won’t make it through the winter.

“It is critical that support for Limerick retail continues beyond the initial pent-up demand,” said Chamber chief executive Dee Ryan.

Retail and hospitality has been one of the most disrupted sectors in the last decade, with online browsing and shopping changing patterns of how people spend money.

The Chamber has consistently highlighted the need for a delivery strategy for the City, called for the development of a shop canopy scheme and a paint your building scheme along with other measures to increase the city’s appeal for shoppers.

“We have some vibrant retailers in the city and it is in all of our interest to support them. In the last 18 months I have raised a range of issues with Limerick City and County Council calling for a dedicated resource to help address the challenges,” Ms Ryan said.

“The appointment of Celia Larkin as City Centre Revitalisation Manager last February was a welcome development and the Chamber has a long list of action items to pursue with her and we look forward to seeing results”.

Accepting that there is an onus on retailers to have up-to-date social media strategies and in-store experiences for shoppers, Ms Ryan said: “when you shop in person with an independent retailer you should expect an experience that’s difficult to replicate online”.

The Chamber chief executive said they were very concerned about vacant units and sites which she describes as a “blight on our streetscapes”.

“Unfortunately, we are now likely to be facing a compounded problem with vacant units across the city and county. Vacant units are eye-sores that detract from the huge effort being put in by business owners and tidy towns committees to the upkeep of their premises. We need an innovative strategy for filling these units including enticements to attract next-generation retailers to choose Limerick locations.”

Welcoming the draft plans to Reopen the City and County, Ms Ryan said “this type of forward-thinking from the local authority is evidence of a new and innovative approach. If we keep doing things the same way we have always done them, we will get the same declining result.”

“I have already spoken to Council officials regarding the need for queuing and safety measures to be put in place outside department stores and shops. We can build on the example of uniform pavement stickers and signage for physical distancing set by Dublin City Council and other cities. We should go further to include on-street entertainment for shoppers as they start to come back in. Now is the time to make people feel welcome,” she said