There was a large turnout of up to 100 local traders at the Longford County Council and Longford Chamber of Commerce Retail and Town Renewal seminar in the Longford Arms held on Tuesday, May 30.
Guest speaker on the night was Kevin Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence who gave an insightful presentation into the challenges faced by the retail sector.
Retail Excellence offers advice and guidance to thousands of its retail members across the country and this experience allowed Mr Fitzsimons to give real examples of how rural towns across Ireland and individual retail outlets have addressed the threats posed by on-line shopping, out of town malls, changing trends etc.
For individual retailers he placed particular focus on improving the offer to the customer giving them a better retail experience. He stressed the need to be knowledgeable about the products, create a story around them, display product information in a clear and concise manner and expand the reasons to visit the shop premises.
Speaking to the different authorities present he spoke about improvements to the public realm making a difference and the challenge for actually improving citizen engagement to the point that locals feel prouder in their town and more inclined to shop locally.
Contributions from the floor emphasised the importance of recognising and promoting what is positive about our living and retail space and special mention was given to Longford and Ballymahon Tidy Towns groups and the wonderful work they undertake on a daily basis. Paddy Mahon, Chief Executive of Longford County Council spoke about the his experience in Westport – Irish Times winner of ‘Best Place to Live in Ireland’, and attributed their success to a long term plan with the community, politicians and council management working together for the good of the town.
Derek Scanlon, President of Longford Chamber and Cllr Padraig Loughrey both recognised the achievements of all the business people in the room and spoke about the optimism generated around new retail outlets, upgrades or achievements.
Longford County Council Director of Services, Barbara Heslin reinforced the Councils commitment to a town renewal programme and reiterated the need for everyone to come together to promote and build on all the positive aspects Longford has on offer.
The event will be followed up with a dedicated capacity building programme aimed at the retail sector and anyone interested in taking part should contact the local LEO office 043 33 43321.