Extra footfall was visible in stores across Clare for Christmas 2019 but didn’t necessarily lead to increased sales with some stores recording marginal gains and others a slight dip on last year.
A wide range of events as part of the Christmas in Ennis programme brought atmosphere to the county town. The pedestrianisation of O’Connell St, Abbey St and O’Connell Square also aided businesses according to Patrick Bourke of Patrick Bourke Menswear which has stores in Ennis and Kilrush.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Kilkee native admitted little separated 2019 sales with the previous year. “The middle part of December performed quite well bar one or two days when the weather wasn’t hectic, it has been a long run in to this Christmas, the last few days leading into the weekend proved to be very busy. The closing off of the high street in Ennis to car traffic helped us, the footfall was passing the door on foot rather than on wheels so there was more chance of them stopping, that helped a hell of a lot for the two weekends.
“We noticed a younger age bracket of person in the shop, the younger family man and his wife with kids because they were enjoying the train and the merry go round, the dwell time from that type of shopper was much longer on the street”.
Kilrush he felt “wasn’t quite as hectic”. “The Santa Claus back there proved to be a great hit, the pity is it was for one day only, if it could be done for a couple of weekends by different organisations it would be great because it helped the town and the footfall”.
Their final run-in to Christmas Day proved busy with many people returning home to West Clare for the holidays. “The week leading up to Christmas was very busy in Kilrush because people were home from abroad and other parts of Ireland so it made for a busy weekend and the Monday, Tuesday leading up to Christmas. The pubs and restaurants seemed to have been very busy back there, the footfall wouldn’t be as high as it is in Ennis but it was strong”.
Around Shannon, there was a noticeable increase in personnel at SkyCourt Shopping Centre helped by the arrival of the Omniplex Cinema which boasts six screens and welcomed several families to the upstairs of the town centre.
However according to Raj Singh, owner of The Gadget Fix this didn’t lead to more buyers. “We thought it was quiet. It was only coming up to Christmas in the last week was a bit busier, before that it was quiet,” he told The Clare Echo.
Now located in Shannon for six years, staff at the tech store admitted this was their least busiest Christmas, “Last year was a bit better, this was our quietest,” Raj stated. Though footfall has increased, he is sceptical as to whether the cinema will benefit surrounding businesses, “It’s more in the evening time when the crowd comes in, it won’t affect our shops. By the time people come for movies the other stores are closed”.
On a national scale, Christmas 2019 is marginally ahead of 2018 figures, online sales continue to show growth. An average increase of 30 percent was recorded by Retail Excellence for Black Friday, such a lift was felt in Clare stores according to Bourke, “We definitely saw it in the Ennis store, not as high an increase in the Kilrush store.
“You’ve a different dynamic between the two of them. In West Clare you’ve the redundancies and the closure of Moneypoint, that has killed a bit of confidence and then on the farming side with the beef that’s not helping either, that would have had a little bit of an affect on Kilrush and to a lesser extent online shopping, we wouldn’t notice it as much in Ennis as we would in Kilrush. On the general scheme of things, we had a very good Black Friday period, we’re embracing the Black Friday idea and making sure we get our slice of it”.
Murmurings that ‘the boom is back’ hasn’t been experienced so far as spending in Clare stores is concerned. Bourke’s Menswear which is open 91 years has seen Ireland’s revolving cycle of boom to bust first-hand, Patrick said Christmas 2019 was not back to boom levels. “It wouldn’t be close to the boom period. We’re having a lot of people through the door but they’re not purchasing as much. We used to get big spenders in the boom time, that type of spend is gone, what’s happening now is we’re getting a couple of items off each person rather than buying full outfits”.