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10% of town’s commercial property vacant

SOME 70 business premises in Ennis town are currently vacant, according to the CEO of Ennis Chamber, Rita McInerney, and Fine Gael Deputy Joe Carey.
In a speech in Dáil Éireann this week on upward only rent reviews, Deputy Carey highlighted the situation in Ennis with regards vacant commercial space.
He said that 70 commercial properties are presently available to either rent or let in our county town.
“This is extremely worrying for the continued economic development of Ennis. This figure represents 10% of the total rateable commercial properties in the town presently,” he commented.
He made the case that commercial rents in Ireland are too high and with many of them struck at the height of the boom, they are not in line with current market forces.
“There are 700 businesses on the rates books of Ennis Town Council. It’s a frightening reality, that 10% of the rateable commercial properties in the Town of Ennis are vacant, unoccupied, having had to close down because of this recession. Unfortunately, this scenario is replicated throughout the country. It’s blatantly clear that commercial retail rents in Ireland are far too high and cannot be sustained in the current trading environment. Many of these rents were struck in the height of the Celtic Tiger era and bear no resemblance to the economic reality faced by the Ireland of today,” he added.
Deputy Carey highlighted the closure of Hughes and Hughes nationally, and in Ennis, as an example of a retailer going out of business who cited rents as a contributing factor.
CEO of Ennis Chamber, Rita McInerney, confirmed that there are currently in the region of 70 business premises in the town vacant. “One of our board members did a count and that is the case. That is throughout the whole of Ennis, including the retail parks, outside the town. Rates and rents are a factor in this not the whole reason. Obviously, the downturn in business being experienced across the board is also to blame,” she commented.
“Obviously it does have a huge impact on the rates being collected from the town, but of course, our main concern is keeping businesses open and keeping Ennis town alive,” she added.
She said that the Chamber’s view of these business vacancies is to turn it into an advantage for the town.
“Along with the Chamber, the estate agents are at the cutting edge of promoting that stock of retail premises. We are being very proactive in that respect,” she said.
She said that some landlords are working to facilitate tenants, but “obviously the rents they apply have to make business sense too”. “They have made their investment based on potential rents at the end of the day,” she remarked.
She admitted that there are “not a lot of profits being made at the moment”. “The retail sector is really feeling it at the moment. It is a balancing act between businesses staying afloat and it making financial sense to stay in business.”
She said that she had no idea how many of these businesses became vacant in the past year. “I acknowledge that it is an alarming figure but we have to turn this to our advantage.  There is stock to attract new business, so Ennis is ready for business of all kinds. In terms of recession, people do look to diversify. Also in cases where people have been made redundant, they sometimes look to set up a new business venture. In Ennis Chamber, we feel that the only way forward is to play on the positives. Ennis is an excellent location, with the airport close by, good connectivity including a much-improved rail link and a high standard of hospitality,” she commented.
“The upturn has to come sometime and we are ready for that again. Reality is also that most of properties are vacant intermittently and there is no one big area like a ghost town setting. We are trying to fill in the gaps,” she said.
She also stressed that due to the unique nature of some of Ennis shops, they are “holding their own”. “Ennis offers a different shopping experience and in relation to that, we haven’t suffered from UK chains pulling out of Ireland, to the same extent as other towns. We were never reliant on them, with the exceptions of Sasha and Hughes and Hughes, which I admit are a big loss to Ennis,” she explained.
She also noted that some businesses are making alterations to how they operate. For example, some shops and businesses have changed their lunchtime closing period from the traditional 1 to 2pm, to 1.30 to 2.30 or even to begin at 2pm.
“Businesses are trying to cater for customers’ varying lunch breaks in a bid to bring in lunchtime trade. If that works, it makes sense,” she said.
On a positive note, she highlighted that May would be a very busy month in Ennis town, with a number of high-profile conferences and events coming Clare’s way. “A learning conference for both parents and teachers is being held in Glór; the country’s fire chiefs are holding their annual conference here; the annual Vintners’ Federation Conference is taking place here; the Ennis Fleadh will take place at the end of the month. So May should see businesses in Ennis doing better than in previous months,” the CEO remarked.

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