VACANCY rates in the city centre reflect the precarious position retail currently finds itself in Waterford. Some of the city’s traditionally busiest streets for footfall are experiencing vacancy rates considerably in excess of even of the worst times of the last recession. George’s Street stands at 28.6% vacancy, Blackfriars at 40% and Michael St Lower at 36.7%.
City Square, meanwhile, with the high profile loss of Debenhams, as well as a series of other smaller stores, is frank in admitting it is challenging.
‘A second lockdown in Waterford, as is currently being endured in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, would be devastating.’
The closures are not unique to Waterford, as Denis Carroll, City Square Manager, points out – they have been mirrored in other counties, but the vacancy statistics make for stark reading, with more to come.
Some consolation is to be had that, within the national context of Covid-19, Waterford continues to buck the trend, with only very minimal increases in cases over recent weeks. But we are far from immune, and must remain very much aware of how contagious this virus is. A second lockdown in Waterford, as is currently being endured in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, would be devastating.
A way forward for Waterford starts first and foremost with maintaining our excellent record in the suppression of Covid 19. As schools prepare to reopen, we must ensure we continue to keep high standards of hygiene – hand sanitising and washing, wear face masks, and consciously avoid increasing our contacts in a manner that puts our families, friends and wider community at risk.
The boon of the staycationing Irish has been a positive for coastal communities, in particular, and businesses along Waterford Greenway. Credit is due to those businesses who are catering to our welcome visitors in a safe manner for everyone.
Meanwhile, online shopping habits, which increased during the lockdown, should be considered within the context of local spend. After all, every euro that goes out of Waterford is a euro less for our Déise economy. The power is, literally, in our purses, wallets and debit accounts. Think and act Waterford first when it comes to your shopping needs.
Welcome return for the arts
The rising of the curtain on our much loved Theatre Royal stage was a welcome development this week, a symbol of hope that while life has been changed utterly for the moment, we are adapting and allowing a semblance of normality to return in new forms.
It also comes as a reminder of what we have been missing, and of the important role the arts play in our community. Their value and significance to who we are should never be forgotten or dismissed. The Theatre Royal reopening is a start but significant challenges continue for musicians and entertainers – as featured in a series of articles in this edition.
A re-imagined series of festivals in September, including the involvement of the brains behind Spraoi and Harvest, is something to look forward to, while the Waterford Council supported Summer in the City is currently livening things up on our streets. Life as we knew it might be changed, but our Déise vision for fun remains undimmed.