Athlone Chamber of Commerce and Industry has welcomed the free public car parking initiative during Christmas week.
Traditionally the Saturday before Christmas has been a free car-parking day in the council car parks. However, this year the initiative will run for a full week from December 17 to 24.
Fianna Fáil councillor, Aengus O’Rourke, who was instrumental in promoting this initiative, said: “In calling for the free parking week initiative, I wanted to make sure that the local authority was doing their bit to help local retailers have the best shopping season possible.
“At a time when much of the talk is about ‘going North’, it is very important that we do what we can to encourage people to stay local, shop local, and support local. I am confident that this parking initiative will go some way towards that.”
John McGrath, president of the chamber, has expressed delight with the extent of free parking being promoted by Westmeath County Council: “In the latest Consumer Sentiment Index, consumer sentiment fell to 60.2 in September which is the weakest number since February,” he said. “We hope that initiatives like this one will encourage consumers to spend here which will lead to a boost in the local economy of Athlone.
“The town centre streets are competing with the shopping centres and it is our opinion there is a range of shopping which complements that of the centres in the area. Particularly during Christmas time, there is a great atmosphere in the town.”
The switching on of the Christmas lights took place in the castle yesterday (Wednesday ) and there are moves afoot to host other events in the lead-up to Christmas, details of which will be revealed in the next week or so.
In addition, Mr McGrath pointed out that, with the level of collaboration between business, the local authority executive, elected members and organisations such as Tidy Towns, there is a targeted marketing campaign being devised to ensure the message of free public car parking gets out to as wide an audience as possible.
Some of these initiatives include images to be attached to the bottom of email communications, sharing the newsfeed posts on www.athlone.ie multimedia platforms, and the use of material through businesses’ own multimedia channels.