Monday 18 November 2019

Constance Harris: Decision is a disaster for brand Ireland's image

Grafton Street is the pinnacle of high-end retail here, but now it is totally devalued

Constance Harris

Dublin City Council's recent decision to allow charity shops to trade on Grafton Street is disastrous for Dublin city and Brand Ireland and one that should be revoked immediately before damage is done.

The largest single industry in the world, employing 20 per cent of the world's population, is retail.

For the entire five years of the recession, the only sector growing in retail is high-end, luxury goods, the sales of which are increasing seven to nine per cent every year.

That is phenomenal considering we are supposedly in a contracting spending environment. Luxury goods are perceived by the consumer as having aspirational, exclusive value.

Location is everything in retail. Brands have to position themselves alongside similar valued brands. It adds to their value. It supports their business growing and surviving.

It makes the area a focused destination for the consumer. Every city of global significance has its high-end street. The street where every business wants to be recognised worldwide as having value. Bond Street in London, Avenue George V in Paris, 5th Avenue New York.

It's a tourist attraction in a culture where retail is God. Grafton Street is our high-end, value street where like-valued brands position themselves alongside each other and the international community recognises our culture as having economic power.

A big part of Grafton Street's perceived value is Brown Thomas's presence on it. Thus Grafton Street attracts important American brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and The Disney Store, quality international fashion brands such as Karen Millen, Reiss and Ted Baker, fine jewellery specialists such as Boodles and Weirs.

For many companies, having a store on Grafton Street is perceived as prestigious, even if the sales returns don't merit the investment. It is something for them to aspire to.

So Grafton Street is a discerning, aspirational destination. A sign of the economic strength of our culture, our worthiness as a tourist destination, a symbol to attract foreign investment to Ireland.

Charity shops are indiscriminate. They deal in the cast-offs of a community.

They often sell what they receive in donations at below production price. Most of them have no knowledge of the value of what they sell. Charity shops do not have to satisfy all of the stringent standards and consumer rights that other retailers do.

The retail industry is hugely aware of the developments in every country. This decision by Dublin City Council gives a disastrous

signal to the international market. We will be perceived as not supporting the value of business and thus any investment they make in our country.

Grafton Street is a hugely important component in Brand Ireland's value. To allow charity shops to trade reduces its value by as much as 80 per cent, in my opinion.

If I were a business like Brown Thomas et al, I would be reconsidering whether I should continue trading on such a low-valued street. And if I chose to go, who else would follow?

Grafton Street is the jewel in our crown. Dublin City Council's action reduces its value to paste.

Irish Independent

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