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Retail expert warns against criticism of multinationals


Anton McNulty

A RETAIL and business advisor has warned Castlebar councillors against blaming multinationals for their town’s problems.
In order to improve the retail sector in Castlebar, the Mayo Enterprise Office asked Retail and Business Advisor Keith Harford to undertake a retail study of the county town. At last week’s Castlebar Municipal District meeting, he outlined some of his findings before the final report is published and felt that Castlebar was not ‘a town in crisis’.  
Following his presentation, many of the councillors complained that the multinationals located at the edge of the town had taken away business from Main Street and the centre of town.
Cllr Al McDonnell felt that growth of multinationals and the loss of traditional family businesses had resulted in the loss in profit being recycled in the community. He added that while Main Street was aesthetically beautiful, there was no business on it.
However, in response Mr Harford issued a word of warning to the councillors saying that the absence of multinationals in favour of traditional businesses did not mean towns remained successful.
“In terms of towns who have decided they are not allowing development and hold onto their tradition, a good example is Naas in Co Kildare. Naas died a death and I’d say 50/60 percent of the town is closed while Newbridge is thriving relatively speaking. It is a thriving town in comparison to Naas … Naas is on its knees. Sadly there is no black and white answer, it is somewhere in between, you need to think about that,” he said.
Earlier in his presentation, Mr Harford explained that he was meeting some of the groups in the town and praised the ‘can do attitude’ of some of the town’s business people. While he acknowledged that the town was in need of more hotels, that should not stop them becoming a retail centre of excellence.
“Almost everyone I spoke to clearly envied Westport’s tourism and hospitality business. There is no doubt there is a desperate need for hotels in Castlebar but Castlebar should be promoted as a retail centre of excellence and stop being jealous of Westport and let them do what they do. Not being a centre of excellence for hospitality won’t stop Castlebar being a centre of excellence for retail,” he said.
There was a mixed reaction to Mr Harford’s presentation with Cllr Michael Kilcoyne complaining he had not approached councillors as part of the study. Cllr Frank Durcan described Castlebar as a ‘dead town’ and this was as a result of bad planning.
However, Chairman of the Municipal District, Cllr Blackie Gavin said allowing businesses like McDonald’s and Lidl into Castlebar has resulted in bringing more people into the town. He added that it remained his aim for Castlebar to seek and be granted city status in the future.