The second week of January will see Cashel’s new Christmas lights being taken down, put in their boxes and stored for the 2013 season.
Chamber President Sean Laffey has expressed his thanks to all those sponsoring organisations who made it possible to revamp the lighting last Christmas.
“We are indebted to the South Tipperary Development Company who administered the LEADER grant. To the town council for their generous contribution towards the lights and also to South Tipperary County Council for helping to support our Shop Local Campaign,” he said.
“We were delighted that the town’s retailers came on board with late night shopping and purchasing advertising space in the Winter Wonderland Brochure, proceeds of which went to fund the Saturday events, some elements of Santa on the Plaza, music at the Heritage Day and the Friar Street Folk and Food Market, which were a feature of the Cashel retail experience on the run up to Christmas.”
When asked did he think that trade in town had benefited from the new lights he said: “last year was a difficult year for everyone, credit was tight, and people’s purses not as full as during the heyday of the Celtic Tiger. You might recall the very severe criticism we received 12 months ago from the town’s councillors on the state of the lighting. So we really did have to change the old lights. Cashel was slipping behind visually and if it looked like we didn’t care about putting on a good show then we couldn’t complain if people shopped elsewhere.
“One of the biggest benefits of the three week event was the chance to connect the community with business, for example the Cashel Brass Band were absolutely marvellous, playing on the Plaza and in Friar Street, they brought great joy and festive atmosphere to the town. Who can forget the way the Dermot O’Hurley Pipe Band marched with Santa out of town on the first Saturday of the season? That was really special. Another terrific event was the recording of music from the rock of Cashel, this is an archive in itself and a great legacy for the future, it is something we will be able to play again next year. Thanks are due to the OPW for allowing us to record at the Vicar’s Choral
“Some things worked better than others, the Friar Street Market had problems with insurance issues for their crafts people and they put down a couple of very hard trading days with an emphasis on specialist food. The weather on the final weekend was also very bad and with gale-force winds it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to be shopping in an open air market. But it’s all a learning curve, if you don’t try things you’ll never know what works.
“Looking ahead there is much to be done to push business and prosperity in the town. Times are very tough for retail and tourism in particular. We will be running a training seminar in February and we are delighted that we have now started to work in partnership with the public bodies to help promote the town and to drive a business agenda.
“We know that the thinking at county level is for Cashel to be the one of the major heritage towns in the county, and of course it is ideally located in the centre of Tipperary. However, we can’t become complacent, a look at Tourism Ireland web sites might come as shock to Tipperary people, the Rock of course features, but there is very little else and I have the feeling that to really market Cashel we will have to go on a solo run.
“The old faithfuls of great value retail and seasonal tourism will keep the town ticking over, but for growth and prosperity we need to campaign for more diversity and upscale retail in the town, study after study has shown that.
“Retail works best when it is allowed to retain profits for re-investment and it might seem like we are drumming out the same old message; but business rates that cripple business and deter enterprise are counter productive. The other side of the equation is that people need productive employment to make money to shop local. Attracting key industries, and encouraging entrepreneurs with discounted business rates for start-ups for example, that is what is needed to provide year-long jobs for residents. And we know that those measures will feed the local economy, that must be a priority both of the Chamber and the Council. Perhaps it is time for a joint think tank to get something done?”
The Chamber AGM will be Wednesday, January 23, at Mikey Ryans, 6.30pm. Businesses wishing to join the Chamber contact Sean Laffey by text 0879821916.