Review of Cork city centre’s retail strategy as online sales surge

St Patrick’s St: Review comes after car ban reintroduced.

A review of Cork city centre’s retail strategy has been announced as the surge in online shopping threatens Ireland’s high streets.

The review is likely to lead to rezoning proposals for the city’s once traditional shopping streets, which are currently dominated by retail, in a bid to encourage a mix of other uses.

And it is almost certain that the review will recommend more residential zoning in the city centre, in a bid to further boost and accelerate the growth in the city centre’s population.

The issue, which was discussed very briefly at last night’s city council meeting, comes just months after the reintroduction of the afternoon car ban on St Patrick’s St, which has focused attention on the challenges facing the city from online shopping, and ahead of next May’s historic city boundary extension.

The extension, the first since 1965, will bring large urban and shopping areas such as Douglas and Ballincollig within the city’s administrative area.

The city council’s director of services in the planning directorate, Pat Ledwidge, said senior planners will undertake extensive research over the coming months, and will embark on public consultation, before a draft strategy is finalised and brought back to council for debate.

Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan said the issue was so important it deserved a special council meeting.

Details of the review were announced last night as new figures from the UK showed that the number of people out shopping in November dropped to its lowest level since the 2008 recession.

Footfall at British shopping centres, retail parks, and on high streets fell 3.2%, analysis firm Springboard found. The figures showed the Black Friday effect was driving more shopping online during a longer period and the decline was “indisputable evidence” that Black Friday was of no benefit to physical stores, it said.

Springboard said it expected footfall to decline by 4.2% year-on-year in December.

In 2016, e-commerce spending accounted for 8.7% of total retail spending worldwide, but the figure is rising rapidly, and is expected to reach 14.6% of all sales by 2020.

In Ireland last year, online sales amounted to around €5bn, or just over 12% of overall retail sales.

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