Dún Laoghaire is a fabulous seaside town situated 12 kilometres from Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. The town is rich in history and has some wonderful architecture (modern & classical), sculpture and design interspersed around the town. Look above the collage of shop signs that mark the main street of the town, and some interesting history can reveal itself.
Like many towns across Ireland, Dun Laoghaire has experienced major issues, not least the dropping commercial footfall and retail trade. However the town is starting to progress and is slowly but surely addressing it’s issues. The Dun Laoghaire BID initiative is an example of this www.dunlaoghaire.ie.
Following are some proposals that could help jump-start the town both to attract more commercial investment and to provide a unique shopping and entertainment experience. The aim is to draw more people into the town creating economic, civic and commercial opportunities, taking advantage of sometimes obvious yet unexploited avenues.
When consumer footfall in particular drops, it can be down to what people want not being available so what does one do?: CREATE IT! (Consider: the coffee culture did not exist 15 years ago, now it is one of the more prolific industries in Ireland).
RETAIL HOURS FOR THE CONSUMER & EVENING TRADE:
In many towns and cities across the globe they understand the necessity of catering to the consumer in every way possible.
When it comes to the commercial sector, it is the people as consumers that will make or break an area. But currently, with the odd exception, there is no trade in DL after 5pm. The town as it stands focusses on the retired, the unemployed and the town working day trade. But what if it decided to capitalise on an un-tapped segment? The evening time trade: which would focus on the people who leave the town in the morning to work and return after 5.30.
There are thousands of people living within a 2km radius of the town centre who work outside -what if when they came back in the evenings there were shops open, coffees available and entertainment on 7 nights a week? A suggestion could be to operate an 18 hour a day town – create the ‘night time town experience’ – draw the consumer, attract the tourist, make Dun Laoghaire Town THE destination.
RETAIL PRESENTATION PACKAGE: A package should be prepared and suggested guidelines set out for the Retail sector. Some retailers understand the need to adapt, to change and evolve their product offer and how it is presented. This is a constant process, not just seasonal.
The importance of product rotation on display and indeed the front window presentation are paramount to the brand and retail business identity. In some cases certain retailers stumble at this hurdle. Not understanding the target market, the competition, and the now unsympathetic internet – (which forces the retailer to be ever more progressive, inventive, and creative to represent their product in the greatest light) – to convince people to enter their premises, peruse their products and make a purchase is ever more challenging. Should a retailer not look into continually improving their product mix, presentation and product offer? The internet business, unburdened by rates taxes or high retail running costs, will take over the high street and with it the jobs, the footfall and the local industry. But what retail still has over online is that feel factor: the ability to touch, to smell, to taste and try out. The key for the savvy retailer is to make their brand / products as desirable as possible, more than a photo on a screen. This can be down to simple solutions such as highlighting certain products and focussing on their uniqueness.
While the landscape of retail has changed so dramatically, a store is no longer a space selling things – you are now a brand selling an experience. The consumer experience is what will be had looking into and entering the shop – it should stand out, it should be interesting and engaging. From there, what is intrinsically important are the staff who should be well versed in the products they sell and the ethos of the company. An unfortunate consequence that can cripple a business are unmotivated and uneducated (in the product & brand) employees. Without continual up-skilling, educationand motivation it is fair and reasonable to understand that staff can become less involved, more removed and complacent due to the monotony of the workplace and the daily tasks therein. What is needed are ‘Brand Ambassadors’ – Seth Godin discusses them in this interesting piece.
Changing the form and function of an interior can be beneficial for both the customer and the working staff. For the customer it implies that the brand / store is always progressing, it is successful, it is of the times and innovative. A space that flows, that is unique and creates interest motivates both consumer and staff. If you feel good about where you work, you enjoy your work more and you can project a natural enthusiasm onto your customer that can encourage them to make that purchase and most importantly; be a return customer who publicises their positive experience to others who may in turn become your customer.
BRINGING LIFE TO THE MAIN STREET AT NIGHT:
Window displays: Many people mention that Dún Laoghaire town seems dead at night. There is a simple solution to bring the perception of life to a town in the evening and indeed after hours, and that is by having each shop window display illuminated with cost efficient LED lighting and the window display offers the BEST opportunity to represent the brand and its champion products.
Notably, a problem that some retailers might have would be that their security shutter might be to the front of the store, however by moving it into the store they would be contributing dramatically to the atmosphere of the town at night and indeed provide an additional marketing opportunity for their store: To have their ‘hero’ products on display. By having each and every store window lit up at night along the street, it takes advantage of an extra avenue of potential sales – the window shopper. Should you be guessing as to how it should be done you could consult a designer to offer presentation solutions and ideas. MiD can offer a cost effective way of understanding your target market, putting focus on your brand and its subsequent presentation. MiD can assist you in product selection as well as design – sometimes we require that outside perspective to see what might be missing from our retail offer.
While people visit DL during the evening to walk the pier, at night time, a brightly lit street-scape would draw people to its centre to peruse the selection of goods and services available and prepare people for that future purchase. Along with that, the window shopping experience can assist your fellow business owners who operate at night time by driving footfall in their direction. However, if your windows are dark, you’ve just missed out on several hundred potential shoppers a week and presented an image of ‘being closed for business’.
A street scape can either look confident, professional, upstanding and organised or decrepit, disjointed and amateur. Therefore guidelines could be drawn up for signage and shop fronts along with the resources to implement them. MiD can advise you in this area. If you are considering investing in retail trade, it is imperative that you consider ‘the face’ of your business: what the public sees. it would be digressive to invest in your goods, prepare all your financing but to then stumble at the last hurdle and have a cheap looking, characterless piece of signage representing your hard work, future income and brand.
FURTHER SIMPLE IDEAS:
ONWARDS & UPWARDS: Change is on the cards.
A section from my previous Proposal ‘Done Laoghaire to Fun Laoghaire’ November 2012:
Dún Laoghaire is strategically positioned by the sea – 20 minutes by train from the city centre and is easily accessible by water, by public transport and by car. A great opportunity exists for Dún Laoghaire to become a ‘music & performance capital’ of Dublin or indeed Ireland based on the positive response to the Festival of World cultures over the years.
We should consider capitalising on this concept of bringing people to the town for shows, gigs and events all week long and to further develop a night time economy.
– DÚN LAOGHAIRE TOWN-
THE LIVE ENTERTAINMENT & CULTURAL CAPITAL OF IRELAND
The best place on the planet for music, food, art and entertainment.
Sounds good – It could be a reality.
Dún Laoghaire; ‘the live entertainment and cultural capital of Ireland’ could put Dún Laoghaire on the map both nationally and internationally. The fact that Dún Laoghaire is a ferry town means that people can also come there to visit for the weekend knowing of the future possibility of good shopping, entertainment and amenity.
TODAY: The first step in progress towards this idea comes in the form of the ‘Dun Laoghaire Music Weekend initiated by the BiD group – October 2014′.
In various surveys people mention the lack of particular brands, products or services and mention the abundance of Euro shops, charity shops and hairdressers. While all these retail offers contribute to the town, a balance should be struck. Too much of anything can be detrimental to the retail health of a town. The business groups could work towards creating a ‘desired’ business list based on the demands of the consumers and the market. Should a new proposed business adhere to the ‘desired business’ ethos, certain incentives could be provided be it through a reduction in rates, rent etc. to encourage more of what is needed in the town and less of what is already in abundance.
Written by Michael Ó Mara with special thanks to contributors: Graham Carroll of friday.ie and the interesting discussions with Quentin Ahern of Army of Id his partner Mary Szymanski and Eoin Farrell that helped formulate this article.