Westport pips Killarney to top list of Ireland's favourite towns
A landmark survey by Retail Excellence Ireland with a huge sample of 16,000 respondents has rated Westport as Ireland's favourite town.
The Mayo town, which boasts an attractive mix of retail and leisure facilities as well as good places to eat and drink, narrowly beat Killarney for the top spot.
The survey designed to find Ireland's top 100 towns and cities to shop and visit, is part of the representative organisation's drive to re-energise town and city centres.
Full results of the top 100 are published in a supplement with today's Sunday Independent which is a media partner in the initiative along with the Irish Independent.
But the top 25 towns and cities all had a balanced mix of multiple retailers, which drive footfall, and independent retailers, which give the towns and cities character and personality.
And each scored highly on safety, security and family friendliness.
While the good retail mix was deemed important, it is clear that access to good car parking at the right price is a major concern for consumers who are willing to travel long distances to towns and cities they enjoy.
Many of the best performing towns and cities have competed successfully in the Tidy Towns competition, indicating that the presence of strong community spirit is vital if town centres are to flourish.
None of the towns which fared best have been exposed to significant out-of-town planning, so much of the commercial activity is confined to the town centre.
The top 25 in order are: Westport, Killarney, Swords, Ashbourne, Dungarvan, Carrickmacross, Clonakilty, Malahide, Skerries, Listowel, Kilkenny City, Castleknock, Tramore, Galway City, Tullamore, Wexford, Ratoath, Carrick-on-Shannon, Cobh, Kinsale, Monaghan, Middleton, Cork City, Letterkenny and Carlow.
Keith Rogers, chairman of Retail Excellence Ireland, said: "We need to demand our towns have the right ingredients with a suitable mix of convenience, grocery, fashion, health, eateries, public houses and entertainment to ensure citizens are engaged with their civic space and in turn they then support their local town."
Cormac Kennedy, group head of property with Eason and chairman of the REI Town and City Revival Committee, believes that the survey can act as a road map for towns and cities to improve.
"Ultimately, the report gives the feedback from each town's shoppers and business community so their views should be taken on board," he adds.
The availability of parking offering good value for money is an important factor for shoppers. In fact, shoppers will determine where they will go shopping purely on the basis of car parking facilities
Westport, which came first, has won Tidy Towns awards three times in the last decade.