As Dundalk retailers reflect on a encouraging Christmas and New Year trade a number of business people have called on the community to work together to ensure a bright future for the town.
Despite the current difficulties, there is a clear sense of optimism among the business community that Dundalk can prosper. Dundalk retailers have seen an increase in footfall over the busy Christmas period and have revealed that the 2% VAT increase which came into effect on January 1st will have little or no effect on business in Dundalk.
Chairman of the TCCM (Town Centre Commercial Manager) Brian O’Neill summed up the mood of cautious optimism when he called for a unified effort to meet the challenge.
“I think the main message from any retailer I’ve been talking to is that there has definitely been more footfall in their shops this year. As retailers it is up to us to be more prudent, smarter and to think of ways to keep the customer in Dundalk. As a town we have to pull together and help each other get Dundalk back on the map.
The Marshes Shopping Centre also saw three new outlets open their doors welcoming new business and new staff to the centre. Despite best efforts a fourth store did not get to open before Christmas due to contractual delays. Manager Harry Traynor has been observing the trends
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and although not what it once was is still reporting a ‘lift’ in business.
“You haven’t got the mass exodus of people travelling up to the North as you once had. I thinwk the recent lighting of the Christmas Tree and the opening of Market Square reminded people it was Christmas, since then there was a bit of a buzz in the town.
The sales brought many people out with cash in hands as prices were slashed by up to 75% before shops in Dundalk closed for Christmas. According to retailers around town the much talked about 2% VAT increase will have little effect on sales this year as in general the retailers will absorb any extra costs.
“The problems we’ve been having with people going up the north have never been about VAT” insists Patsy Maguire of Eddie Maguire Electrical in Dundalk. It was mainly to do with the exchange rate. When the euro was worth 95p people were flocking up to Newry but now that it’s down to 83p people aren’t bothering anymore.
“This VAT increase of 2% will be absorbed by the retailers. If I have a washing machine selling at €399 I’m not going to put it up to €408 as soon as the VAT increase comes in. It will stay at €399 because that’s my price point. People are beginning to stay in Dundalk now because the difference in prices between Newry and Dundalk is simply not as big as it may have been in the past.” added Patsy.
Jock McArdle of Quick Exchange on the Longwalk Road agreed with Patsy’s sentiments and noted that more people have stayed in Dundalk to do their shopping this year.
“This Christmas more people have shopped local without a doubt” said Jock. It’s good news for us that the Market Square has been finished and that traffic is flowing around town again. We now have to ensure that we use the new square to attract people into town by putting on shows and music and ensuring the square looks well. The council have spent a lot of money doing up the square and we must now utilise it fully to help retailers in the area” he added.
The town centre traders associations saw a varied degree of Christmas surge in spending but the Longwalk Shopping centre was pleased to see a 5% increase in the footfall on the same period last year and the footfall is not the only indication that there are slight improvements . The Shopping centre also welcomed three new outlets which between them have created six new jobs.