The Chamber of Commerce has called a discussion meeting for 7pm this Wednesday February 6 at Kearney’s Castle Hotel to consider the Aldi planning issue, which was highlighted in last week’s Nationalist by Councillor Tom Wood. All are invited to attend. The Chamber would especially like to invite members of the Cashel Town Council to hear the views of local businesses.
Sean Laffey, President of the Cashel Chamber, told us that there is considerable disquiet amongst chamber members at the prospect of another supermarket in town. “We are not against development, neither are we against competition, and we know businesses who cater to their customers’ needs are likely to succeed ahead of their rivals. However, we feel the town is already very well served by some excellent convenience stores. In fact Cashel already has seven convenience stores and another three garages, which offer similar product ranges.
“We are sure there isn’t sufficient demand in the town for yet another player. With Aldi operating in Thurles, Clonmel, Cahir and Tipperary Town we can’t see A Cashel based store will attract shoppers from beyond the natural catchment of the townl. To put it bluntly another supermarket in town means that one or more of our existing stores will find it almost impossible to compete and survive. A further worrying scenario is that if there is fierce competition between discounters, then the existing supermarkets may have to follow suit and this would mean a reduction in local produce being sold in those shops.”
A recent survey has shown that there are 40 empty retails units within Cashel and the fear is that another larger supermarket will lead to the failure of more small independent businesses in the Town Centre. “Not just convenience stores but hardware, electrical, DIY, clothes and shoe shops, gardening, all those shops will be affected.” contends Mr. Laffey.
“It’s a message Chambers of Commerce all over the country have re-iterated time and time again “ he said “ There are dozens of places where the arrival of yet another supermarket resulted in ghost towns developing in the commercial hubs. I’m not being over dramatic here, I’ve travelled a lot in rural Europe and I know of settlements where there isn’t as much a bakers or a butchers, yet you can buy anything from wallpaper, to a motorbike, to fresh lobster in a one-stop hypermarket. That is the continental model of trade, everything under one roof, with palletised delivery from a central warehouse, with minimum staffing and proportionately low wage bills. Do we want Cashel to go down that route?
“We’ve canvassed our members and the feeling is strongly against another convenience store for the town. The arrival of another discounter could put long standing family businesses in jeopardy. Those families have served the community for years, and they have supported the town council with business rates. They would like to pass on their stores to the next generation. That will be a tough task.
“As one retailer told me, being part of the community is more than just a slogan for local business, as they naturally support local suppliers, support local initiatives, support sports clubs and community groups, and not least of all they employ local people in significant numbers. We know that the annual wages bill for the convenience store sector in the town is in excess of one million euro and that goes straight back into the local economy. On the supply side , the town already has over 40,000 square feet of the retail space devoted to convenience stores, there is no reason to suggest it needs more.”
Sean went on to say that he is fully in agreement with one town trader who said -‘I believe the proposed location is hugely inappropriate from the point of view of enhancing the town plan as a heritage centre, from a safety perspective for pedestrians and car users.’
Sean said - “We have been working with the Town and County Councils on the Economic Programme Management Group and the Town Centre Forum all towards the new look post-2014 Tipperary. The key point about those bodies is that they view Cashel as the jewel in the county’s Heritage offering. The Town Centre forum for example has indicated that what is needed is more high value shopping to bring in high spending tourists. Further expansion of the convenience sector would be detrimental to the town’s image as a tourism destination.
“We are open to all shades of opinion, and we’d welcome the pro as well as the anti caucuses at the forthcoming meeting, but I think the general message from the meeting on Wednesday will be Enough Already!”