WITH retailers all over the country facing a particularly difficult January, Helen Downes of Shannon Chamber says the sector will “need a lot of TLC” over the next few years.
Since Christmas well-known sporting goods outlet Dressco, has closed its doors. This business had been in operation for well over 30 years and was one of the most well known outlets in Shannon.
On the positive side a new sweet shop opened just before Christmas.
Last year the arrival of Buy Lo to SkyCourt provided a boost to the centre, but it didn’t last long as it was gone again well before the end of the year.
However a replacement anchor tenant is close to agreeing to come in and it’s hoped that there will be some news on this front in the next few weeks. Securing major retailers is important to the store as a whole as they bring in additional shoppers to the centre.
Ms Downes said it is difficult to entice people to do all of their shopping in Shannon.
She noted it is important to plan for the next few years now. “There is a need to look at the journey that will be undergone in the next few years and to look for solutions to the challenges.”
Ms Downes also felt that the increase in VAT, which came into force at the start of 2012, is damaging to the retail sector as a whole. “The increase in VAT is very bad news. It will make people more cautious about their spending and they are already very cautious.”
She said that some fresh thinking might be helpful for the centre. “Shannon is quite unique and there is a need for some ideas on how to have a better centre. It might be a village concept, like Kildare village. I think it will need a lot of TLC over the next few years.”
SkyCourt had a number of initiatives in 2011 to boost trade with things like a ‘festival of football’ in July held in association with the FAI and a community day later in the year.
The centre reported a relatively busy Christmas season with operations manager PJ Quirke stating business was up. ““The weather was better this year than in the previous few years but having said that I think that this year people decided to stay at home and shop local. The fact that the weather was bad last year meant that people had to stay at home, but this year they didn’t have to but they did. It was great.”
While the development of the so called TC2/TC3 site in Shannon was supposed to generate a very different type of town centre, the sharp decline in the economy has meant this will not be proceeding for at least a few years.