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Local firms are thinking ‘outside the box’ to keep their businesses strong

November 12th, 2020 11:45 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Elma Casey, chief executive of Access Credit Union, at the launch of their Shop Local initiative and discount card. (Photo: Emma Jervis)

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BUSINESSES in West Cork are banking on communities to sustain the region’s economy.

A variety of trade and business organisations throughout the region– which represent commercial outlets, services and sole traders – are working individually and together to come up with creative ways to support their customers.

The need for such a coordinated response, and the corresponding goodwill of the community, was put in stark terms by Clonakilty businessman, Kevin O’Regan.

‘For our communities to continue to exist all aspects of our community must be supported. No one wants a ghost town. Things are delicate at the moment and we need to tip the balance in favour of our community over the likes of Amazon and other international giants,’ he said.

Access Credit Union – which has branches in Bandon, Skibbereen and Schull, and has 28,000 customers – has taken the most direct approach with its ‘Love Local’ discount campaign in the lead-up to Christmas.

Participating businesses are taking the innovative approach of offering personalised virtual shopping via WhatsApp and Zoom for customers during the Level 5 lockdown.

A discount card is also being offered as a reward for customer loyalty and their ongoing support of local businesses. The initiative would not be possible without the support of Skibbereen Chamber of Commerce and proactive business associations in Bandon and Schull.

Bantry, too, has launched its own shopping voucher system and continues to refresh and update its new online support hub.

Bantry Business Association chairman, Diarmaid Murphy said this is further evidence of how the organisation is ‘thinking outside the box.’

The hub outlines all of the adjustments that are being made by businesses so they can comply with the newest restrictions, and continue to trade in one form or another.

Bad weather might have kept shoppers out of Bantry town centre over the weekend, but not even three days of Storm Aiden could dampen the entrepreneurial resilience of the local business community.

Mr Murphy confirmed that the launch last week of the Bantry Business Hub, the online shopping service, has met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

‘The benefit of the Bantry Business Hub is that one can see what is available locally without having to come to town,’ said Diarmaid.

‘It is very straight-forward. There is a listing of the approximately 100 local business association members and with just one click a customer can directly access an outlet online.’

Diarmaid said it is encouraging that so many businesses have joined the hub and that locals can shop online during the Level 5 lockdown.

People are already making good use of the business association’s voucher system too, according to Diarmaid.

These are available to buy at the Credit Union or Fast.net and can be used by the listed shops and businesses.

Some business people are using humour to keep spirits up.

Take Skibbereen draper, Sean Murray, for example. Instead of the ubiquitous ‘click and collect’, he is offering a ‘park and honk’ alternative that’s putting a smile on peoples’ faces.

The community travel service, West Cork Connect, is also doing what it can to assist by transporting purchases to various bus depots in Leap, Rosscarbery, Clonakilty and Bandon.

Its chief executive, Damien Long said that the service started on Tuesday, October 27th, and people are already finding it to be ‘extremely useful’ because of the 5km travel restriction.

The Southern Star is doing its bit, too. A free guide to shopping locally will be available online throughout the Level 5 lockdown.

It features a directory of shops, businesses, and charities, as well as a direct link to the corresponding website or social media page – an initiative that those who are not tech-savvy consider ‘a godsend.’

Meanwhile, West Cork’s artistic community is being ‘creative’ when it comes to reaching out to its audience, and customers.

The West Cork Creates ‘Harvest’ Exhibition – which normally could be viewed at the O’Driscoll building in Skibbereen – is now online and has been extended to January 31st.

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