09/06/20 As retailers across Limerick pulled up their shutters this week for the first time in three months, the largest business representative body in the Mid West has issued a stark warning that unless local shoppers return to spend in store some Limerick retailers won’t make it through the winter.
“It is critical that support for Limerick retail continues beyond the initial pent-up demand” said Dee Ryan, CEO at Limerick Chamber.
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.
“We all have a renewed appreciation for local suppliers since the start of the pandemic, it is important that we stay engaged with shopping locally and continue that good habit in store with our retailers.’
In recent times Limerick Chamber has highlighted a 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 for enhanced cleaning and way-finding to increase the city’s appeal as a destination of choice for shoppers.
“We have some truly vibrant retailers in the city – both established and new – and it is in all of our interest to support them. In the last 18 months I have raised a range of issues with our local authority on behalf of members, calling for a dedicated resource to help address the challenges so I was pleased to welcome the appointment of a City Centre Revitalisation Manager in February to enhance city centre shopper experience. Limerick Chamber has a long list of action items to pursue with MS Larkin and looks forward to seeing results”.
Accepting that there is an ownness on retailers to have up to date strategies for creating ‘Social media moments’ and in store experiences for shoppers, Ms Ryan said “when you shop in person with an independent retailer you should expect a stylist experience, difficult to replicate online in a chat box. Go in to have a consultation with store owners and staff, and avail of the professional advice and experts’ eye that is part of the service.”
The Chamber is very concerned about vacant units and sites which it 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 must be welcomed and 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.”
She continued “I have already spoken to Council officials regarding the need for queuing and safety measures to be put in place outside of popular 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, buskers etc, for very welcome shoppers as they start to come back in – now is the time to make people feel welcome.
The Chamber has a vision for a thriving urban experience in Limerick, at the heart of it is the delivery of the hero investment project of O’Connell Street which should be accelerated to give retailers and businesses the support they deserve as quickly as possible. I urge more retailers to join, become members and feed in to our work to advance plans to improve the experience for us all. It’s a very exciting time for Limerick.”