Shop lo­cal – it’s time to use it or lose it

New Ross Standard - - OPINION - with Deb­o­rah Cole­man

ARE small Ir­ish towns be­com­ing ex­tinct? That was the ques­tion asked in a re­cent Char­tered Sur­vey­ors of Ire­land re­port which raised con­cerns about ris­ing rates, rents and out of town re­tail de­vel­op­ments as con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

While these are all fac­tors to be ad­dressed and con­sid­ered, I be­lieve that there is def­i­nitely still a place for small towns across Ire­land and that it’s a case of use it or lose it. We can­not spend our money on­line and in large chain stores only to then be­moan the hard time the small lo­cal re­tailer is hav­ing.

It’s like any­thing, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘ til it’s gone and while it’s very nice and oh so con­ve­nient to have the large re­tail­ers on our doorsteps, small in­de­pen­dent stores are also ex­tremely valu­able to com­mu­ni­ties and must be pro­tected.

The is­sues of spi­ralling rents and rates is not a new one and re­tail­ers have been rais­ing this con­cern for more than a decade yet very lit­tle has been done.

Small traders can­not be ex­pected to pay ex­tor­tion­ate bills when they are barely mak­ing ends meet - so what do they do? They close up leav­ing yet another va­cant unit in a lo­cal main street or mar­ket square.

It’s hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try and those who dig in and try to keep their busi­nesses go­ing are be­ing squeezed fur­ther and fur­ther.

We all saw the Black Fri­day and Cy­ber Mon­day hype and many of us had no prob­lem shelling out cash for the deal of the year, and it didn’t cost us a thought as to who was ben­e­fit­ing from the sale. Whether it’s right or wrong in terms of the shop lo­cal ethos, con­sumers want the best value they can get, with the least amount of has­sle, and this of­ten is achieved by shop­ping on­line. Lo­cal traders must strive to stay rel­e­vant and com­pet­i­tive also and to of­fer cus­tomers and in­cen­tive to come into their lo­cal town cen­tre and sup­port them.

Are they cater­ing to the mar­ket and are they as com­pet­i­tive as they can be? These are both ques­tions worth con­sid­er­ing.

The world has be­come a smaller place and peo­ple no longer shop lo­cal be­cause it is their only option. They do so if they re­ally want a prod­uct, are get­ting a good deal and most of all if it’s con­ve­nient.

Grid­locked towns with poor park­ing fa­cil­i­ties, over-zeal­ous park­ing war­dens and lunchtime clos­ing hours will not help their cause ei­ther.

We can­not spend our money on­line and in large chain stores only to then be­moan the hard time the small lo­cal re­tailer is hav­ing.

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