Uplift in festive period business delights local retailers
Retail outlets in Newry have received a welcome boost over the festive period after it emerged that many local businesses have reported an uplift in business over Christmas and New Year in the city.
Speaking to Newry Times, Peter Murray, Buttercrane Centre Manager said that although the local shopping centre experienced a slow start to Christmas in the first half of December, the last ten days before Christmas saw the ‘serious spending’ taking place.
This, Peter insisted, enabled retailers to recoup some of the lost sales from earlier in the month and November.
“This high level of expenditure has continued with great sales performance recorded since reopening on Boxing Day.
“Retail remains a challenge with the ongoing economic conditions prevailing”, insists Peter, “but we continue to see online sales grow expediently.”
Despite a strong end to 2012 and a great start to 2013, the Buttercrane Centre Manager believes there exists a general lack of consumer confidence, which he says is reflected in sales of non-essential comparison goods in particular.
With Tesco opening up soon in Newry and a bleak economic forecast, Peter remains lukewarm on the prospect of 2013 being much better than the previous calendar year.
“It is difficult to see a great deal of improvement in the coming twelve months if we are to be guided by economic forecasts which predict public sector cut backs will bite in the coming year.
He added, “Nevertheless, Buttercrane Centre will continue to be at the forefront of local consumer’s minds as we rely very much on a loyal customer base who shop our range of 50+ stores on a weekly basis.
McParland’s owner Gerry McParland said his Monaghan Street store had done ‘reasonably well’ over the Christmas and New Year period.
While Gerry hasn’t noted much of an improvement from this time last year, he says there has been an increase in footfall and customers are ‘pretty happy’.
Remaining optimistic about the year ahead, Gerry anticipated, “It will be a better year than last year.”
Graeme Finegan of Grounded Espresso bars in Monaghan Street said that unlike many of the retail businesses in the area, Grounded saw a reduction in lunch time trade as people tend to spend more of their break times shopping for presents.
“For us our busy period over Christmas is when those who work or study outside of the Newry area come back and want to catch up with friends they haven’t seen in a long time.”
Stressing the importance of shopping local, Graeme continued, “I have been chatting to local traders and they have experienced a great Christmas period and I feel this is down to people beginning to understand the importance of shopping local for the local economy.
“Initiatives from local councillor Pat McGinn and cross promotion from the traders in the Creamery Quarter and the Cathedral Quarter has definitely reinforced this ‘shop local’ spirit.”
With local businesses having to compete with larger international corporations Graeme says the newly formed steering committee tasked with promotion of Newry’s new quarters, Creamery and Cathedral is a great foundation to offer customers something better.
“Grounded has had a good festive period;” Graeme noted. “Our mission statement and our company goals are not always finance driven.
“Obviously a certain amount of money has to come in to maintain a business, and thankfully we can do that, but our mantra is that business doesn’t always have to be about money, but it does always have to be about community.
He added, “With a successful community around us, Grounded will continue to grow and prosper. It’s a virtuous circle rather than a vicious one.”
Welcoming the news, Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade said that although the festive period started slowly for many, it picked up significantly in the week leading up to the holidays and has continued to be steady in the sale period post-Christmas.
This increase in sales perhaps suggests a positive turning point in consumer confidence after what has been a difficult year for the retail and service sectors.
Speaking about the year ahead, Cathal Austin, President of Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade said, “We look forward to a busy 2013 with optimism that the current economic situation will continue to improve.
“The late Christmas boost has shown that consumer confidence and stability is extremely important to maintain the vitality and economic future of our city.”
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