Confidence boost for Cathedral Town


A BRISK Christmas trade has brought a renewed sense of confidence to retailers in the county who are hopeful it will continue into the New Year.
As shoppers were busy yesterday picking up last minute gifts, the Donegal News spoke with some local businesses to see how trade has been over the festive season.
CEO of Letterkenny Chamber, Ms Toni Forrester said the town is definitely busier than it has been in recent years.
“We will have a better idea of the overall situation once we look at figures in January, but for now, I know that our members are reporting an increased trade.
“This has been a slightly better year for businesses locally and the fact that Christmas has been busy leaves them with a good end to the year. The hopes now are that this bit of confidence which has come back into the retail sector will continue into 2015. There is optimism all round.”
With a favourable Sterling/Euro exchange rate attracting shoppers from Northern Ireland and a concerted effort by local stores to provide the bargains that people are looking for, the Christmas shopping period has been fruitful for traders in the town.
Ms Roisin Woods, Marketing Manager for McElhinney’s of Ballybofey, said that confidence is returning to the retail sector.
“Trade is very buoyant, both in store and online. The whole run up to Christmas has definitely been busier than previous years and we are very happy with the way things are going this year. We would definitely see more people coming through our doors this year, both locals and shoppers from Northern Ireland who are getting extra value on the strength of their Sterling.”
Ms Woods also said that a concerted effort to drive the store’s online business is beginning to show results.
“Our online business started a lot earlier this year, back at the start of November. We received an award for the best e-commerce website and that has sealed our status as one of the foremost online retailers in the country. Because we were able to guarantee next day delivery, we were able to compete with many of the larger UK retailers.”
Ms Woods concluded: “Throughout the past six years, we remained exceptionally confident and looked at the bigger picture. John McElhinney is dedicated to retail and has always ensured that we have taken a progressive approach to our business.”
Earlier this year, Mr John Watson opened Watson Home and Hardware on Letterkenny’s Main Street and he said that he is very happy with trade over recent weeks.
“We have exceeded all our targets and I’m very happy with that. This is our first Christmas on the Main Street and I am delighted with how busy we have been.”
Mr Watson said that there has been a significant number of shoppers from northern Ireland who are choosing not only to do their shopping in Letterkenny, but also stay overnight or for the weekend.
“There are some very good offers for hotels in Letterkenny and we are finding a big increase in shoppers from Northern Ireland at the weekends. The bottom line though is that there is great value to be had in Letterkenny and there has definitely been a return to the main street. This has been helped by the variety that is here and the number of new shops that have opened.”
Mr Gerard McCormick, of Magee’s Chemist, said that it has been a good Christmas so far.
“There’s more of a feel good factor and confidence about the town this year. Letterkenny town centre itself is looking great and the rejuvenation of the main street is working well.
“Also, it’s important to note that we’re all offering real good value for money,” he concluded.
Mr Ciaran Kelly, managing Director of Kelco Communications, said that he is very happy with business.
“Our business is up in Letterkenny this year. Our shop in Donegal town is also trading strongly while stores in other towns across the county are probably on a par with last year so, overall, we’re happy enough.
“Cross border custom doesn’t really affect our game so we would put the increase in Letterkenny down to the fact that we’ve moved down to the Letterkenny Shopping Centre.”
The indications from retailers in Letterkenny are also at variants with the national picture with Retail Excellence Ireland reporting that Christmas trade this year has failed to ignite.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Seán Murphy, Retail Excellence Ireland Deputy CEO, said: “Christmas 2014 will trade marginally up on Christmas 2013. It would seem that while all the indicators pointed to a vibrant Christmas 2014, the fact is that seven years of frugality is a hard habit to break. The expectation was that the last few days before Christmas would be buoyant, unfortunately trading failed to ignite across Ireland.”

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