Free wifi is being considered for one of West Cork’s largest towns as part of a new retail and town supports programme. Cork County Council said the new scheme being piloted in Bantry will be launched at a breakfast and networking event in the town on May 15.
The scheme will include mentoring, business development, one-to-one website advisory clinics, access to a €2,500 online grant from the Local Enterprise Office, and an opportunity to complete a retail digital marketing e-learning course.
The council said it is also considering free wifi for the town and further festival support funding to drive footfall. The launch event will feature speakers from the retail, food and tourism sectors who will discuss the challenges facing their sectors, and how to overcome them.
Jean McCabe, of Willow, is the vice-chairwoman of Retail Excellence Ireland, and winner of the Retail Excellence National Store of the Year 2019 title. She will talk about her experience of succeeding as a traditional shop combined with online retailing.
Bantry man James Burke of James Burke & Associates, who has worked in the retail and foodservice sectors for over 30 years, will put forward his plan for creating a unique position for Bantry retail and foodservice operators, and Mark Healy, proprietor of The Pantry, Portlaoise, Co Laois, will speak about his experience in developing a successful food-service business in a regional town.
The pilot scheme is being driven by mayor of the County of Cork, Patrick Gerard Murphy.
Retail and small towns are facing increased challenges from more global competition and online trading.
"Bantry was selected for the pilot as a peripheral county town with an important mix of retail, food and tourism. It is vital today to have a cross-platform approach of both store and online, both of which need to be backed up with impeccable customer service — something that larger chains do not always offer.”
Council chief executive, Tim Lucey, said of the 15,000 rated premises in the county, 11,800 are small businesses with a rate bill of €5,000 or less, contributing up to €20m or 15% of the overall county charge: “This pilot programme is just a small step to start to assist the further growth of these businesses.”