A flood of misinformation: Christmas retail hit by media weather reports

Local businesses have reported a drop in trade in the run-up to Christmas as customers’ confidence was dented by media reports describing a flood-stricken Athlone.

Customers were calling retail outlets to check if they were open, as the first media reports went out which highlighted flooding of the river Shannon in the town. However business owners remain keen to reassure members of the public that Athlone is open for business.

While the Athlone Towncentre shopping centre reported a steady trade during the festive season, marketing manager Shirley Delahunt said they definitely noticed a lull in trade in mid-December.

“Trade went down mid-month when the reports first went out, and people were ringing us to see if they could get in to the centre. It did affect us,” said Ms Delahunt.

Owner of Burgess Department Store, Rosie Boles, said there was a noticeable decrease in business in December as soon as the media started focusing on the floods in Athlone - and again after Christmas during the early days of the sales.

“It wasn’t a true picture that was shown in the media. Obviously the floods have been a huge problem and no one is taking away from that. But every day we had people ringing to ask if we were open; it was a bit frustrating.

“It definitely affected our overall sales for December. We were ahead early in the month, and behind by the end of the month,” said Ms Boles.

However, they praised the work of Athlone Chamber in getting the message out to the public that Athlone remains open for business, and are remaining positive that things will continue to improve in the new year.

“The week before Christmas sales were very strong, and we still have a nice footfall [in Athlone Towncentre],” said Ms Delahunt.

“We had a bit of a pick-up from last year with the addition of new stores such as Tiger, Starbucks, and TK Maxx. We are happy to do anything we can to add value for customers.”

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