TRADERS in Clare say that Christmas 2016 was quite good for them, providing some evidence that long-sought economic recovery has reached the county.
Paul Queally of SuperValu in Kilrush and Killaloe felt that December 25 falling on a Sunday was helpful, as it changed how people spent.
“In comparison to other years it was favourable, slightly up on previous years. It often is like that when you have a full week running into it. When it is like that, it tends to be busier. It’s a bit more relaxed, people can remember everything they are looking for and there isn’t as much of a rush.”
While he believes this side of the country is still lagging behind the east, he feels that things improved in Clare a little this year.
“I would say it has been quite good this year, probably the best for a few years.”
Audrey Flynn of Ennis Electrical also felt it had been a fairly good festive season.
“We were very happy with it. It was more spread out. Black Friday kind of puts it into people’s heads to start shopping earlier.” She also said there has been a strong start to their post-Christmas sale.
Men’s clothing store owner Patrick Bourke was also happy with trading.
“In December, there was a sluggish start but it got momentum and there was a sprint finish really.”
Things had been hectic since reopening after Christmas, he added. “Since we came back on Tuesday, we have been very busy. We had our best opening day of a sale in years on Tuesday. There are a lot of weddings over Christmas and that makes us busy as well.
“What we called the Australian factor over the last number of years wasn’t as evident this year. A lot of them didn’t come home. For what reason, I can’t exactly tell you but I do hear from parents and others who are home that a lot of them are thinking about coming home for good. If not to here, coming to England or the Middle East, depending on circumstances. A lot were talking about coming as far as England until Brexit and that kind of stymied that a bit.”
With 2016 closing, he said it had been a good year overall, better than those in the recent past but not without its challenges.
“We had a decent year. We had two blips during the year, one in August around the Fleadh but it came back up afterwards. Then there was another in early November. Everyone was talking about Brexit and that but I put that down to the threat of strikes, the garda strike and the teacher strike. As well as that, all the self-employed people had to pay tax and the property tax demands came out as well.”
While this year has been positive, he isn’t optimistic about the first half of 2017.
“In 2017, I think the first half will be a bit testy. If you get a strike or talk of a strike here in Ireland, within 48 hours it is reflected here in the till. If Jack O’Connor comes out and says we have voted for a strike, 48 hours later, the till slows down. That’s all it takes.”
He also acknowledged there is nervousness about Brexit, with Article 50 due to be triggered in the spring.
Newsagent Mary Kelly felt it had been a good Christmas also.
“I found it steady and pretty solid. It was better than the last few years, in that it started at the end of November and got steadily busier. I didn’t feel there was any panic buying this year and for me that was better,” she said