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Hospitality struggles while tills ring for Clare retailers

PUBS and restaurants around the county remain open, but with Covid-19 again rampant, the sector is feeling the pinch.
At the same time there is some evidence that general retail has continued to perform well, with its busiest time of the year approaching.
Maurice Walsh of Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty says that expectations of a very strong Christmas party season have evaporated.
“Our Christmas party set-up would be based around Limerick, Shannon and Ennis, with corporate business. In the last seven or eight days 80% of them have cancelled,” he said on Tuesday.
Durty Nelly’s had been set for a very strong Christmas, comparable to 2017 or 2018, prior to this wave of Covid-19.
Currently he says turnover is down by about 70%, and he doesn’t know if there will be State support for businesses which are about to lose a lot of seasonal business.
The months that followed the summer reopening were quite positive, but he feels the reserves generated then will be gobbled up now.
“We reopened on June 29 last and at that stage most businesses were nearly working on fumes. We had a great summer, a great July, August and September, got a few pound back in the kitty, but it looks like it’s just going to go again now.”
In general the businesses relies on doing well at certain defined periods, which compensates for spells when there is far less turnover.
“It’s all about cashflow. Most businesses like this would expect that Christmas would cover January, February and March. That isn’t going to happen this year, because the revenue is going to be so small.
“You’re looking at businesses really struggling through January, February and March, especially in the likes of Bunratty or any tourist destination.
“It’s different in a city or a town where there’s a core business to work with and then Christmas would be a bit of cream, the Trad festival in Ennis would be a bit of cream, the summer would be a bit of cream.
“Out where we are it’s very much tourist-based, it’s highs and lows and getting through the lows to get to the highs is the big issue.”
There will be no reward for much effort, but Maurice says there is no option but to keep going.
“We put in a huge amount of work into getting these bookings. There’s a savage amount of work behind the scenes in relation to attracting corporate business to your premises.
“Then it’s like a light bulb was switched off and it’s gone. We’re working on Christmas parties since last September and it was very, very healthy looking and then bang.
“It’s a fair kick in the teeth. I suppose we’ll just have to get through it and plough on.”
Men’s clothing retailer Gary Long is behind Club Dangan and CD2 in Ennis, and he says that trading has remained strong, despite the greater prevalence of Covid-19.
“It’s been really positive for us across the board. We have five stores in our group, there are two in Ennis, and across the five I have to say it has been very positive.
“Weddings are still very strong and that has helped the formal side of things. The last few weeks have seen a bounce on the casual side, people buying a few presents and so on. Last weekend there was a little drop, but that’d be par for the course the week before Black Friday.
“What’s going through the door, and more importantly what’s going through the till is good and strong.”
It is shaping up to be an excellent Christmas, he feels. “If it keeps going like it has done since we come back, it’ll be a really good Christmas, the best Christmas for a number of years.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.