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*SkyCourt Shopping Centre in Shannon. Photograph: John Mangan

This week The Clare Echo is proud to launch a new campaign called Click For Clare which, with the support of Local Enterprise Clare, has been devised to support members of the local business community who are trading online.

Within five days of announcing the scheme on our website, at time of writing we have had more than 140 applications from businesses looking to partake and I’ve encountered many, many businesses which I previously was unaware of. I’m glad to say it has opened me up to an online world I didn’t understand existed on our own doorstep.

The idea behind the scheme is to connect users on our website to dynamic online stores in County Clare. Over the course of the campaign, which runs into the first week of January, The Clare Echo website will welcome more than 200,000 unique users of which more than 95 per cent are Irish based. If we can get even five per cent of these users to click onto local websites, it will have been a roaring success.

At risk of sounding like a cliché-spouting broken record, every €10 spent on local products generates about €40 of onward benefit to the local community. The current consumer trend of funnelling our disposable income into multinationals – which I think we are all guilty of on some level – now has to be stymied as a matter of urgency.

The cycle can been seen on so many levels of society, like the mirror image of a village being left behind by the development of a motorway. Many times, a so-called progressive step in modern society equates to another strand of our community fabric being unwoven and online shopping can typify this. It’s not difficult to predict what will become of our towns without a thriving retail sector on our streets, and inevitably other industries such as food and drink will be the next domino to come under threat.

However simply encouraging the public to shop local with worn-out taglines and reminding them of their civic duty is much too weak a strategy; it serves as nothing more than lip service. It’s not what local businesses in Clare are interested in or respond to. They respond to action because they are interested in progress. Last week another excellent scheme was launched by Ennis Chamber of Commerce, the Clare Gift Card, which provides an opportunity for local people and employers to back local businesses. These gift cards can be purchased from post offices in Kilrush, Ennistymon and Ennis.

While uptake to our initiative from the general public will be judged when Click for Clare concludes in January, the business uptake has been astounding and that exhibits the overwhelming appetite to succeed that exists amongst business people in Clare.

In recent days while researching how businesses and people have adapted to the challenges of the current pandemic, I came across an opinion article on CNN’s website. The writer speaks about how adopting inspirational quotes and mantras in their life has helped them to remain positive in challenging times, writing, “I turned to them this week, as we all face new struggles, looking for wisdom from the past to help the present.” The list of quotes the writer invites readers to welcome into their lives includes ‘keep calm and carry on’, ‘The Sun will rise’, and ‘Be happy, or at least Zen’. While there may be merit in these expressions for many people, there’s also an unquestionable air of resignation about them that’s much too passive for the cut-throat businesses world. If only life was that simple for the business community in County Clare to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

To steal a qoute of my own from Charles Darwin, a man who knew a thing or two about evolution, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The consumer is changing day by day and businesses in Clare are showing incredible resolve by taking the bull by the horns. I believe that they will slowly, inch by inch, be rewarded by the shopping public. Some already are.

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