SIR – As we know, most West Cork retail outlets have re-opened for business in the past week. Business post-Covid-19 lockdown will not be the same as it was before, and this is particularly true of the retail sector.
Street retail outlets are under severe pressure, as people have been, and still are, deprived of the physical interactive retail experience and have probably become more familiar with, and used to, the online alternatives. In addition, because of the size of most West Cork retail outlets, people may be less inclined to walk into small shops, while trying to obey the social distancing rules, despite the huge efforts that all retailers have made to make their shops as customer-friendly as they possibly can.
With foreign travel severely restricted, ‘staycationers’ will, as always, be more than welcome and well catered for this summer in West Cork.
I would like to suggest that, for the period of July 1st to September 30th this year, as many West Cork town streets as possible be designated as ‘pedestrian-friendly’ for peak shopping hours, say from 10am to 4.30pm, daily. Cars and commercial vehicles could be given alternate routes where this is possible, on a town by town basis.Parking to be taken off these streets.
All retail outlets ought to be allowed to add to their offering by being allowed to use outdoor furniture, perhaps supplied by the local authority. They ought also to be allowed to display their produce outside their premises.
Locals and visitors, who heretofore, have come to town to simply to ‘shop and go’ because of Covid-19 fears, would now be encouraged to amble through the streets, meet their friends and others in the safety of an enlarged pedestrianised area and, thus, encouraged to stay and shop, in a far more relaxed environment .The benefits seem obvious.
With few exceptions, most of the footpaths in our West Cork towns are far too narrow and simply act as means of getting from one side of town to another. The footpaths ought to be at least three times their existing width, thus encouraging a far more relaxed experience for users.
The proposed Programme for Government includes a section titled Town Centres. I know that we are lucky in West Cork in having a pro-active local authority, so it looks like town centres may get priority in the future. However, these are plans for the future not the present!
Right now, immediate action is needed for Summer 2020. If something isn’t done straight away, it may well be too late