TODAY, December 8, marks the traditional start to the Christmas shopping season and this year, Cork Business Association and Cork City Council are doing everything we can to encourage people to come in to the city to shop and enjoy our fantastic local food or perhaps catch a show.
In my opinion, nothing beats the buzz of shopping and socialising in Cork in the run up to Christmas and this year, the city centre is looking better than ever with its glittering array of festive lights adorning the streets, restaurants and shop fronts. The fabulous, now annual GLOW festival also got underway last weekend, lighting up Bishop Lucey Park and Grand Parade with its festive market and 30m ferris wheel, adding to the unique experience that is shopping in Cork City at Christmas.
These attractions are here to be enjoyed by everyone across the city, county and further afield and organisations like Cork Business Association are doing everything in our power to ensure that visitors have a safe, accessible and enjoyable trip in to the city.
Of course, businesses depend on the support of their customers to keep their doors open and their staff in jobs, so it’s worth remembering that by shopping in the city centre, you’re supporting the local economy and keeping Cork City Centre alive, vibrant and looking and feeling like the great city it is. Simply put, if we don’t use it we will lose it.
With this in mind, Cork Business Association, in partnership with Cork City Council, actively developed a number of campaigns to help drive much needed footfall into the city centre, and we were delighted to launch a number of new initiatives to boost trade in the city in the run up to Christmas.
One of these is the free parking initiative being offered to our customers this Christmas in return for their support. Our free parking gift is available in the Paul Street and North Main Street car parks every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until January 12 when drivers enter the car park after 5pm.
The initiative which was launched on November 22 means that for almost two months there will be 1,000 free car parking spaces available for shoppers in Cork City, three nights per week.
In addition, there are also increased park and ride services from the Black Ash & Kingsley Hotel throughout the day, in the evenings and on Sundays, as well as additional late-night buses as Bus Eireann expands its services, making the city more accessible than ever in the busy Christmas period. This includes a doubling of frequency on the 220 route between Ballincollig and Carrigaline, so it’s easier than ever to get in to the city centre for the festive season.
Many Cork businesses have extended their opening hours for the festive period and with the help of the free parking and improved transport initiative, shoppers and visitors alike can grab a bite to eat or drink in many of the city’s restaurants, cafes and bars, or attend a Christmas panto’ or show without the consideration of parking costs.
Cork is a fantastic, compact city with the highest number of independent retailers in Ireland and we want to encourage as many people from the greater Cork area as possible to come in to the city centre in the run up to Christmas to soak up its incredible atmosphere.
However, as a business community, we appreciate that we have to take collective responsibility for attracting customers in to the city centre. For that reason, Cork Business Association along with Cork City Council also recently launched a coordinated social media platform, including various channels, to promote shopping in the city centre - highlighting the city’s fantastic range of boutiques, high street stores, quirky shops and quality bars and eateries that make Cork City Centre so unique.
Cork Business Association has also always offered personal one-to-one advisory and support services to retailers and the hospitality trade. This can mean helping businesses understand the need to embrace change and stay up to date with shifting tastes and trends, whether it’s exploring new technology and buying habits or knowing what is going on around them. We have therefore encouraged all Cork City retailers to follow Cork City Shopping social media channels and to share their content with our team as the aim is to attract shoppers from the Cork surrounds and further afield.
The social media shopping platform offers a fantastic opportunity for retailers in the city to work together to promote how unique the shopping experience is in Cork City Centre and how the atmosphere really is second to none. We are encouraging consumers and retailers alike to follow the channels to keep up to date with what’s on offer in Cork City Shopping.
Cork Chamber also recently launched a new one4all multi-store gift card aimed to maximise support for local businesses, as it can be accepted only by shops and businesses in the Cork area that have signed up to the scheme.
Ultimately, our mission at Cork Business Association is to help businesses work together and be in a position to meet their customers’ ever changing needs, not just in terms of products, but in how their customers want to shop and when they wish to shop.
To sum up, Cork Business Association, would like wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Our message is, shop in Cork City and help keep Cork thriving. To quote the poet Thomas F McCarthy, as shown on Grand Parade, ‘A City Rising Is A Beautiful Thing’.
See Facebook (@corkcityshopping), Instagram (@corkcityshopping) and Twitter (@corkshopping)