Naas needs a old-fashioned cooperative approach to get retail moving again

Part of solution in retailers' own hands

Paul O'Meara

Reporter:

Paul O'Meara

Email:

paul@leinsterleader.ie

Naas needs a old-fashioned cooperative approach to get retail moving again

Naas town centre

There is no implied criticism here. But it’s becoming clearer that the solution to the decline of Naas town is least partly in the hands of the retailers.

Naas Lions Club been working to build up some momentum by inviting experts to Naas to talk to the businesses affected by the the depression, which is what it was; the opening of the shopping centre and the unopening of the Naas shopping centre.

At a recent workshop organised by the Naas Lions retailers heard of plans for a town centre (folded) map.

Alice Fennelly of NLC said the objective of this is to “help visitors find their way around Naas and also to remind Naas people of the many shops and cafes that are on offer in the town”.

Anything at all that can help to bring more people to the town centre is to be welcomed; all the more so if the retailers themselves come up with initiatives.

The Local Enterprise Office and Kildare County Council are also keen to lend a hand.

Last week, Castlebar- based John Moran contacted the Leader with his contribution.

It is worth listening to because he provides small business support and has a wealth of experience of the sector.

This includes time spent in Britain including during the Thatcher era in Britain when cities like Liverpool saw many shop closures during that depression.

The problems are apparent — the growing position of multiples with ease of parking, convenience and “better ambience.” He also cites the migration to online shopping and upward-only rent reviews (where these exist) and an “unsympathetic” rates structure.

“If things are bad in Naas for shops, it has a knock-on effect on every other sector including the county council which loses out on rates.”

He said shopping centres started to move out of the town in the UK before it happened here.

“This led to the Save Our High Street campaign.”

He insists that a group of people (retailers) acting together can do great things.

“We cannot wait. If a body of retail is in danger we can’t sit around.”

There is no panacea but what a group of retailers can do is come together and support each other, by simply referring a customer to nearby business if they mention that are looking for something. Or by setting up a collective website.

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He says vacant or rundown shops should become part of this solution and — as has been done in Naas, but by the Tidy Towns group — these need to be cleaned and painted.

Vacant shop windows should display notices of information points about a local shopping campaign.

He says that parking, whether in public or private car parks, could become a viable marketing channel through the use of codes printed on tickets which would be scanned via a mobile phone for further use.

He said that retailers can achieve scale and impact by coming together and agreeing a common plan to help each other, in a cooperative type arrangement.

He said individual business acting alone do not have the required muscle to achieve change but a group does if they agree and plan it. “There is no need for a Dail committee; this can be done quickly.”

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Retailers can tap into local sports and tourism events and this must be done to drive additional retail traffic.

He says that while businesses are working hard, there is more influence to be wielded if they act collectively.

And he says that too many retailers have lost their customer ethos in the pursuit of providing only a “cash and wrap” service.