'If we have two more weeks of this, shops will start closing'


SHOPPING:DUBLIN CITY Council must clear snow, ice and slush from footpaths of the main shopping streets if retailers are not to suffer serious damage to sales during the current cold weather, the managing director of Brown Thomas has said.

Stephen Sealy said business at the department store was down “at least 25 per cent” over the past week as people were not venturing into the city centre. The fact that Grafton Street was “such a mess” was exacerbating the situation.

“I really think it would not take lot of effort to de-ice and then clean the street. Grafton Street and Henry Street should be kept clean. Brown Thomas pays €1 million in rates every year and I would like to see the street outside clean. It’s a disgrace. And Grafton Street should be re-paved.”

Alan Kilpatrick, co-director of Weir’s jewellers, also on Grafton Street, agreed “little is being done by the council to keep the street clear”. Fiona Smyth, owner of the Harlequin vintage clothing store on another pedestrianised street – Castle Market – said her business was down about 80 per cent over the past week.

“There are now five days of compacted snow and we’ve been brushing up as much as we can but the fact is, people aren’t coming into town because they are afraid it’s dangerous to walk around.

“If we have a couple more weeks of this, there are going to shops closing down.”

A spokesman for Dublin City Council said staff had been redeployed from the parks, cleansing and road divisions to treat roads and footpaths, but added efforts were concentrated in areas outside hospitals, fire stations and Luas and train stations.

It would be “impossible” to keep all the footpaths clear, he said.

Director of policy with the employers’ organisation Ibec Brendan Butler said it was unrealistic to expect local authorities to keep footpaths clear.

The confederation yesterday published results of a survey of 400 businesses on the cost of the cold weather.

The estimated economy-wide cost of the bad weather was €630 million – €170 million in absenteeism, €130 million in lost retail sales; €200 million in lost business in the services sector and €130 million in lost productivity in manufacturing.

Some businesses are going to extraordinary lengths to keep customers. The Baggot Inn venue, which had every booking cancelled on Thursday night, has hired a bus to get customers home tonight and over next weekend if the cold weather continues.

“The impact on business here has been horrendous,” said marketing manager Miriam McManus yesterday.

“We had 250 people booked in for tonight and not even 100 will be here, I’d say. We have never been so badly affected.” People were afraid they wouldn’t get home after a night out, she said.