BANTRY has been singled out to pilot an innovate scheme designed to help local business thrive in the face of present and future challenges.
Launched by the County Council, the Retail Support Programme will get underway with a business breakfast and networking event on May 15th for Bantry retailers.
The event will highlight the learnings of a number of experienced guest speakers in retail, food and tourism to discuss the challenges facing the retail sector and how to overcome them.
The breakfast event will mark 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 programme will include onsite 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 will also have the opportunity to complete the Level 5 retail digital marketing eLearning course offered by Retail Ireland Skillnet to improve their e-commerce offering.
Other supports under consideration by the County Council include free wi-fi 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.
Among the speakers at the event on May 15th will be Jean McCabe of Willow, ladies fashion shop in Ennis, vice-chair of Retail Excellence Ireland, and Winner of the Retail Excellence ‘National Store of the Year 2019’, who will speak about her experience of succeeding as a traditional shop combined with online retailing, proving that SMEs can compete against large retail chains.
Also speaking at the event will be Bantry man James Burke of James Burke & Associates, who has worked in the retail and foodservice sectors for over 30 years and will put forward his plan for creating a unique position for Bantry retail and foodservice operators.
Mark Healy of The Pantry in Portlaoise will speak about his experience in developing a successful foodservice business in a regional town and Fáilte Irelands Don Colbert will also outline the need to link the tourism offering with existing retail and foodservice businesses.
County mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy said: ‘Retail and small towns are facing increased challenges from more global competition and online trading. Bantry was selected as a peripheral county town which has an important mix of retail, food and tourism for the pilot. 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.’
Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council added: ‘One of Cork County Council’s primary objectives is to grow the economy of our 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 about 11,800 are small businesses, who have a rate bill of €5,000 or less, and who contribute up to €20m, or 15%, 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.’
Other speakers on the day will include a panel discussion with two local Bantry retailers/foodservice operators, and a presentation by Rose Carroll and Paul Sutton, Cork County Council who will discuss tourism and infrastructure supports provided by the Council and how Bantry can capitalise on its geographical position to promote tourism and business growth.