A meeting about the challenges and opportunities for retailers in New Ross post-bypass opening is being held next Tuesday, February 11, at 8pm.
County Wexford Chamber President Sean Reidy said the chamber has to act fast in conjunction with Wexford County Council in making the town a shopping destination.
The announcement of the imminent closure of Nolan's book shop sparked panic locally last week, following the announcement of the closure of Noreen O'Donnell's boutique and news that Sheridan Insurances are due to move offices to their Wexford headquarters next month.
Mr Reidy said the new Chamber CEO Fiona Lewis will address the meeting in the Brandon House Hotel, along with a speaker from a town that has been successfully bypassed. 'The meeting will deal with the challenges and opportunities that arrive when you have a situation where a town has been bypassed. There are a lot of very good examples of towns that are thriving after being bypassed, including in Co Wexford in Gorey, and there are positive reports coming out of Enniscorthy too.'
Mr Reidy said since he took on the role of Chamber president in the autumn he has had meetings with New Ross retailers concerned about the future of their businesses. 'County Wexford Chamber applauds the opening of the inspiring Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge and New Ross bypass. We look forward to maximizing the opportunities this improved infrastructure presents for business, for inward investment, for retailers and for tourism in New Ross and County Wexford. We will be engaging with the different sectors in wide ranging consultations and presentations to devise strategies for the future. I think the whole retail environment generally is facing new challenges with the struggle of internet shopping. All of that feeds into the challenge for the retail sector in the context of the bypass opening so we have to look at how the bypass can enhance business and make New Ross a retail destination.'
Calling for 'innovative thinking', Mr Reidy said improvements need to be made to the public realm (the town's public spaces), adding that discussions about that have to take place between the chamber and the council. 'This needs to happen very quickly. The challenges that downtown retail businesses face in the modern world are profound and require new thinking and an innovative approach involving all the stakeholders. We need to reverse the current downward trend that has been evident for the past number of years. This is an important moment for the town of New Ross and we need to work together in a constructive way to ensure a bright future for the businesses and people of the town.'
A meeting of the old New Ross & District Chamber committee (soon to be called the strategic committee) is due to take place today (Tuesday) ahead of the public meeting next week. Mr Reidy said he has highlighted the need for urgent action with Ms Lewis. 'I think there are two ways to look at the bypass. Obviously there is a challenge there. We should look at the opportunities that are there for retail. Retail is being challenged everywhere, not just in New Ross because of people shopping online. The towns that have been really successful are the towns that have become niche destinations like Clonakilty. I would be optimistic and I think the opportunities of the bypass are what we should be focussing on. We need to meet the retailers as I think we need to recreate New Ross as a shopping destination. New Ross has been a market town with a big hinterland for centuries. There is no reason that needs to change.'
Citing Glenmore as an example of a nearby market, Mr Reidy said many Glenmore and Tullogher residents stopped driving into New Ross in the afternoon and early evenings in recent times for fear of getting stuck in traffic. 'The bypass is going to open up that market and that is one of several.'
Speaking about the closure of his shop, Nolan's book shop co-owner Paul Brennan said: 'You wouldn't have to be a genius to see that footfall in Ross has fallen drastically over the past five or six years. It's challenging times ahead for people. I honestly think it's at crisis point at the moment. I am not knocking the town because I love the town but that's just the way the town has gone. You wouldn't have to be a genius to see that footfall in Ross has fallen drastically over the past five or six years. It's challenging times.'
New Ross Standard