Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce is very cognisant of the myriad of businesses that sustain and contribute to the economic success of the County but are mindful of the challenges being faced nationally and locally by retail business in the past number of years. Despite many businesses surviving the recent recession there has been a drop in footfall numbers and turnover in the past 18 months which is impacting many local businesses negatively.
The board of the Chamber would like to reiterate the importance of the creation of not just a county retail strategy but also a joint retail strategy for the entire South East region to ensure the viability of the City and County and to protect against outflows from Kilkenny, maintain inflows and avoid over saturation of retail floorspace within the region. As part of the preparation of the retail strategy for the new City and County Development Plan consideration should be given to the best way in which to assess the current and future retail capacity. The use of isochrones to determine primary, secondary and tertiary hinterland is preferable to the use of the County border as the area under consideration. Internet purchasing must form part of the formulaic calculation on potential spend per head of population in this exercise. Considering the proximity of the vacant Ferrybank centre to Waterford which formed a component of the retail space capacity for Kilkenny in the current plan it may be prudent to allow some additional capacity in the City core areas for comparison retailing. Desirable magnet brands are seeking larger footprints than what is currently available and these brands will attract retail interest. Current vacant floorspace in the City being small in scale and desirable small scale independent and niche retailers should be incentivised to take these spaces. It is foreseeable that with the development of the North Quays in Waterford that Ferrybank may remain vacant. This SDZ development with planning for 30,000M of retail space is likely to stem the outflow from Waterford from which Kilkenny benefits and increase inflows to Waterford. This must be anticipated in the regional and local retail strategy. The uniqueness of Kilkenny’s independent and craft retail offering must be protected and enhanced to maintain our attractiveness as a retail destination. Considering the changing nature of the retail mix and shopping trends of the region it would be beneficial to assess the retail movements of shoppers annually through the duration of the plan period and to install street footfall counting systems to monitor trends as well as seeking anonymous turnover and transaction data trends from retailers.
The Chamber of Commerce does not encourage further convenience retail development or any development of significant size outside the three defined areas of sequential planning identified in the current plan as City Centre, Abbey Quarter Site and MacDonagh Junction. All retail strategy must provide for convenient parking. The sites that will be vacated by City Schools should be considered for additional City living units to support the retail core.
Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce feels that consideration should be given to the appointment of a City Business Liaison Manager with responsibility to co-ordinate the business of the main streets. This role could incorporate items such as assisting the governance of planning permissions to include signage and housekeeping, improvement of communication and the overall marketing and attractiveness of the City as a destination reporting into the local authority; co-ordination of method statements and safety measures relating to works on business facades or street works and supporting City rate payers in the advancement of their businesses. The focus would be on managing the “busy-ness” of the city centre dynamic.