Rates a factor in many shops remaining empty
EVIDENCE suggesting that the regime of rates on commercial premises may be strangling the green shoots of retail recovery put up during the Celtic Tiger years is provided by Irish Street in Enniscorthy.
The decision of Dunnes Stores to open a branch in the old malting works in 2007 was seen as a major boost for town centre shopping at the time. The move has since been reinforced by refusal of planning permission to Dunnes' British based rivals Tesco for an out-oftown store in Quarrypark beside the Blackstoops roundabout.
The shop in Barrack Street is a powerful draw but the experience of tenants renting the row of seven shops along the Irish Street side of the store has been less than inspiring. When Subway, the sandwich makers, pulled out of their premises a few weeks ago, it meant that a majority of the shops in the row were vacant.
There has never been full occupancy. Now there are just three out of seven trading, offering variously fish, phones and greeting cards. All three are good enterprises but the tenants must have been hoping for more company. The combination of rents and rates has proven to be a barrier that must discourage potential neighbours. Anne Sharkey at the compact card shop must shell out €3,000 a year to the Town Council for the privilege of having her pitch on Irish Street. The departed sandwich makers had a €5,000 a year demand hanging over them.
Compare their bill with the rates payable around the corner in Market Square, where the commercial rateable value of the Town Council's large and impressive headquarters is formally set at €69, less than that on the Subway shop - €78.