Cllr Joe Flaherty has confirmed that the recently appointed CEO of Retail Excellence, Lorraine Higgins, will be one of the speakers at the Longford Retail 2020 seminar in the Longford Arms Hotel next Thursday, May 31 at 8pm.
He confirmed that other speakers will include Longford people who have succeeded in the retail and hospitality sectors and they will give their own unique insight as retailers and entrepreneurs across the county battle with a series of challenges.
In the build-up to the event, Cllr Flaherty has also undertaken a research project that seeks to establish what consumers think of shopping in Longford town. Said Cllr Flaherty: “A top line reading shows many positives but the research also flags the challenges. Some we are already aware of but its an important piece of work as the retail sector in Longford faces into a defining period.”
Since coming onto Longford Co Council before Christmas, Cllr Flaherty has been lobbying the Council to launch a dedicated retail task force, that would work hand in hand with existing and new retailers. He recently welcomed the news from Director of Finance, John McKeon, that Longford Co Council will devise a dedicated retail strategy as part of the new county development plan.
Cllr Flaherty has continually argued that Longford has the potential to be a unique and bespoke shopping destination with a range of smaller and quirkier shops that you will not find online. Said Cllr Flaherty: “The online challenge cannot be understated but it also enables smaller businesses and towns, that will work together, the opportunity to emerge as an experience-led shopping destination.”
Such an approach however would have to be driven by the retail task force, which would draw on the support and insights of the Council, Chamber, business interest groups and business owners. He said that the approach would be very targeted and by way of example suggested that it could start at Longford’s Lower Main St.
Explaining a little more about the initiative, he said: “A dedicated Retail Task Force would broadly address street scape improvements; provide developmental supports and mentoring for existing retailers; audit empty units and engage with owners to establish exactly what they will accept in terms of rent; and rates.”
Added Cllr Flaherty: “Obviously rates is a huge interest for business and whilst the recent rates incentives scheme was a success, it now needs to be modified and built around a new retail focus that will help develop existing businesses and attract newcomers. I would hope to see a situation where retailers who sign up to the Retail Task Force will be eligible for a rates rebate.”
The Longford Retail 2020 seminar will take place in the Longford Arms Hotel on Thursday, May 31 and is open to anybody with an interest in commercial life in Co Longford.