Cork County Council hosted a well-attended breakfast business and networking event in the Maritime hotel on May 15 – the first of a series of local events organised, as part of a pilot Retail Support Programme for West Cork in 2019. The pilot scheme, driven by Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Patrick Gerard Murphy, aims to help local businesses thrive in the face of present and future challenges.
Attendees of the breakfast event heard from a panel of experienced and inspirational guest speakers in Retail, Food and Tourism discussing the challenges facing the Retail sector and ways to overcome them.
The event marks the start of a series of Retail and Town support events to be piloted in the town in association with the Local Enterprise Office. The ‘Bantry Retail Challenges and Opportunities 2019’ programme will include on-site mentoring and business development, one-to-one website advisory clinics and the opportunity to avail of a €2,500 online grant provided by the Local Enterprise Office. Participants were also encouraged to avail of the opportunity to improve their e-commerce offering by completing the Level 5 Retail Digital Marketing eLearning Course offered by Retail Ireland Skillnet.
Other supports under consideration by Cork County Council include free WIFI for the town and further festival support funding to drive footfall. The end result will be real life solutions and ideas in combating the current challenging retail conditions and increased global competition from online trading.
Speakers at the event included the engaging, Jean McCabe, vice-chair of Retail Excellence Ireland and owner of Willow, 2019 winner of the Retail Excellence ‘National Store of the Year’ Award. Jean outlined her path to success as a traditional shop combined with online retailing, and shared her tips on how SME’s can compete against large retail chains.
Bantry man, James Burke of James Burke & Associates, has worked in the retail and foodservice sectors for over 30 years and put forward his plan for creating a unique position for Bantry retail and foodservice operators during his presentation.
Mark Healy, proprietor of The Pantry Portlaoise, described his experience of developing a successful foodservice business in a regional town while Fáilte Irelands Don Colbert emphasised the need to link the tourism offering with existing retail and foodservice businesses.
Launching the event Mayor Murphy explained that “Bantry was selected for the Pilot, as it is a peripheral County town with a good mix of retail, food and tourism and is facing challenges of increasing global competition and online trading. Retailers have to work harder than ever to compete but can have the edge when it comes to customer service which consumers are craving now more than ever. It is vital today to have a cross platform approach of both store and online, both of which need to be backed up with impeccable customer service, something that larger chains do not always offer. I look forward to seeing Bantry businesses thriving through this programme and look forward to seeing this pilot replicated in other towns.”
Commenting on the launch of the pilot programme, Tim Lucey, Chief Executive of Cork County Council said, “One of Cork County Council’s primary objectives is to grow the economy of Cork county towns, and as an organisation, we are cognisant of the fact that there are some 15,000 premises rated in the County of which c. 11,800 are small businesses, who have a rate bill of €5,000 or less, and who contribute up to €20 million or 15 percent of the overall county charge. This pilot programme is just a small step to start to assist the further growth of these businesses involved in retail, local services, food and tourism in our towns. We are conscious of the challenging circumstances in which certain businesses find themselves in and that is why we introduced a rate relief scheme in 2014 whereby once certain criteria were met, a grant was given to all compliant ratepayers.”
Rose Carroll and Paul Sutton of Cork County Council presented the various tourism and infrastructure supports provided by the Council and laid out how Bantry can best capitalise on its geographical position to promote tourism and business growth. The event concluded with a lively panel discussion with the morning’s guest speakers and two local Bantry retailers/foodservice operators.
For more information on the Bantry Retail Challenges and Solutions pilot programme please contact your local LEO office https://www.localenterprise.ie/CorkNorthandWest/