Shop local - it's time to use it or lose it
Are small Irish towns becoming extinct? That was the question asked in a recent Chartered Surveyors of Ireland report which raised concerns about rising rates, rents and out of town retail developments as contributing factors.
While these are all factors to be addressed and considered, I believe that there is definitely still a place for small towns across Ireland and that it's a case of use it or lose it. We cannot spend our money online and in large chain stores only to then bemoan the hard time the small local retailer is having.
It's like anything, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone and while it's very nice and oh so convenient to have the large retailers on our doorsteps, small independent stores are also extremely valuable to communities and must be protected.
The issues of spiralling rents and rates is not a new one and retailers have been raising this concern for more than a decade yet very little has been done.
Small traders cannot be expected to pay extortionate bills when they are barely making ends meet - so what do they do? They close up leaving yet another vacant unit in a local main street or market square.
It's happening all over the country and those who dig in and try to keep their businesses going are being squeezed further and further.
We all saw the Black Friday and Cyber Monday hype and many of us had no problem shelling out cash for the deal of the year, and it didn't cost us a thought as to who was benefiting from the sale. Whether it's right or wrong in terms of the shop local ethos, consumers want the best value they can get, with the least amount of hassle, and this often is achieved by shopping online. Local traders must strive to stay relevant and competitive also and to offer customers and incentive to come into their local town centre and support them.
Are they catering to the market and are they as competitive as they can be? These are both questions worth considering.
The world has become a smaller place and people no longer shop local because it is their only option. They do so if they really want a product, are getting a good deal and most of all if it's convenient.
Gridlocked towns with poor parking facilities, over-zealous parking wardens and lunchtime closing hours will not help their cause either.