Hospitality and retail hold keys to town centre renewal

Hospitality and retail are interdependent for the renewal of Ireland’s town centres after the ravages of the pandemic, a study by Champion Green reveals.

As Ireland gives much anticipated guidance on the reopening of indoor dining, a new study shows just how interdependent hospitality and retail are for towns to flourish.

The survey canvassed 1,000 respondents, representative of the national adult population, examining their support for local business and changes in spending habits, as well as consumer sentiment.

“The selection of local cafés, bars and restaurants is seen by many people as a reason to come into the local villages, towns and cities, and enhances the shopping experience”

The survey marks the anniversary of the launch of Champion Green, a year ago. Supported by Kilkenny Design and Visa, in association with Retail Excellence, Small Firms Association and Chambers of Commerce Ireland, Champion Green is about highlighting the simple ways everyone can make a difference and help drive the recovery of small business.

Plans for Champion Green this year include a clickandcollection.com platform for locally produced goods and a National Champion Green Week in September to encourage and reward consumer support for local brands and businesses.

The initiative is backed by a €1m investment to drive consumer support for local enterprise and to help SMEs adapt business.

Loving local

Pictured in the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau St Dublin were Sven Spollen-Behrens of the Small Firms Association; Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD; and Evelyn Moynihan, CEO, Kilkenny Group.

According to the results, almost half of Irish consumers (49pc) said they remain committed to supporting small, Irish and local businesses.

According to the Champion Green survey, outdoor dining and hospitality were nominated as key to the renewal of town centres by the majority of consumers (54pc).

Free parking in towns (51pc) and a voucher or loyalty scheme specifically for local businesses (46pc) are also popular suggestions to encourage recovery in local economies.

The decision not to reopen indoor hospitality as originally plan dealt a significant blow to local renewal, said Marian O’Gorman of Champion Green, also chair of Kilkenny Design Group.

“The selection of local cafés, bars and restaurants is seen by many people as a reason to come into the local villages, towns and cities, and enhances the shopping experience,” said O’Gorman.

The local link to renewal

People are now more aware of the connection between supporting local and prospects for economic recovery and jobs, the survey also shows.

There is recognition of the need to support local business, with 49pc claiming to now spend more in smaller local businesses due to Covid-19. Over one quarter, 28pc of all adults, say they spend more online with local businesses too.

Two-thirds say supporting the local economy and jobs (67pc) is the top motivation for spending with local traders.  56pc of respondents say they are aware of shops or businesses locally that will not reopen after the pandemic. 

The convenience of having shops nearby (59pc) is also acknowledged as an important reason for staying local by more than half of respondents.

However, just 51pc of adults say they are confident in their employment situation, over the next 3 months, and only 30pc have confidence in the state of the Irish economy in the short-term.

“People are realising that economic recovery is to a large degree dependent on their consumer behaviour and their support of local businesses,” said Sven Spollen-Behrens, director of the Small Firms Assocation.

“This is a very positive sign. We would encourage small businesses to build on this local loyalty, with concerted community efforts to create the right environment for consumers to return.”

Almost 1 in 3 (32pc) say they will continue to spend more online with Irish-owned businesses, which bodes well for omnichannel business growth.  22pc say they will continue to spend more with local businesses, overall, going forward.

87pc of all adults currently shop in their local area at least once a week, while 30pc eat out locally once a week at a minimum.  The average individual’s discretionary spend per week in their locality is put at €120, excluding household groceries.

“People have supported local cafes, service providers and shops throughout the pandemic, in person and online.  Now we really need that to continue, so that small business can recover, and quickly”, said O’Gorman.

Cheaper prices locally (35pc) are most desired from local businesses going forward, consumers also report, with only a quarter (26pc) rating value for money as a reason to shop locally.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 13 July 2021