Race is on between tourism investment and survival of retail and hospitality sectors

Dividends anticipated from ongoing intense investment by our government in attracting further tourism business to Ireland, may serve little purpose if there is nothing to keep people here when they come. While beautiful scenery and glorious outdoors have much to offer in their own right, without open doors in shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels to welcome those weary and seeking comfort following excursions, the allure of holidaying in Ireland may soon be lost.

It is no April Fool to learn this week that the retail business in Ireland is now in such a state of crisis, that high streets all around the country are expected to disappear. Already we see the process happening in towns in our own county, with empty units and prime 'To Let' offerings blemising streetscapes and retail parks.

Primarily at issue is the high rental costs levied on businesses — many of which are tied in to long-lease upward-only non-negotiable deals with 'institutional landlords' – namely conglomerate-owned property groups whose brokerage deals are fronted by agents.

The inability of business owners to get one-to-one face-to-face meetings with real-life landlords in order to plead their case, is now resulting in the most ludicrous of situations, whereby crucial high street properties are being vacated and abandoned. In turn, these empty lots are left to rot and ruin — simply because greedy landlords refuse to be bowed.

Particularly noteworthy among the closures in recent weeks are gaming, technology, computer and mobile phone operators, who set up in their dozens during the good times. High street fashion shops, boutiques, gift shops and home furnishing outlets, are all also suffering severely from competition and poor sales.

The recent good weather showed that despite the fact that money remains in short supply, once the sun shines, the outdoors beckon, in the process opening up new business opportunities.

Indeed, over those precious few gorgeous days – that hopefully will not be remembered as defining Summer 2012 — real-life money-making opportunities slipped through many fingers as calls rang out for ice-cream stands, cool drinks and tables and chairs to simply lounge about on and watch the world go by. All anyone wanted was to find a nice pew in which to catch the rays while keeping cool with good food, wine and company.

Given Ireland’s unpredictable weather it would of course be foolhardy to invest full-time in money-generating ideas geared solely towards the sun. Nonetheless, the outdoors are now proving ever more attractive and huge business possibilities are opening up all along the Greenway route between Westport and Achill as well as around the extremely busy Lough Lannagh loop in Castlebar, in the form of pop-up shops, market stalls and ‘al fresco’ offerings..

On the off-chance that the good weather returns, the following options should most certainly be considered by enterprising minds:

- ice-cream stalls/hot dogs/burgers/drinks/sweets and take-away options of all varieties, to be set up on a pop-up/stop-off basis along the now multiple pedestrian friendly amenities in Mayo towns;

- ‘al fresco’ good weather table and chairs for the public to park their weary limbs on in style, and also in order to salve parching thirsts outside establishments such as public house and cafes;

- entertainment shows/buskers/music/bands - showcasing whatever your talent may be - with a view to keeping spirits high;

- two euro outlets stands and stalls offering everything from sun hats to buckets and spades and disposable fun necessities at non rip-off prices;

- all of the above subject of course to the co-operation of local councils harnessing all attempts by local people to develop local business - that will in turn ultimately benefit local communities.

Joan Geraghty

Acting Editor [email protected]


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