End of the road for McKeon's after 23 years in Wexford town
McKeon's shoe shop is closing down after 23 years in Wexford.
The shop's owner, Wolfgang Schnittger, said seven members of staff were losing their jobs as a result of the closure of the Main Street shop, which he blamed on the recession, online competition and 'an unhelpful county council'.
'The closure is no reflection on the staff, they have been brilliant,' Mr Schnittger told this newspaper. 'The primary reason for the closure is the recession, from which the shop's turnover did not pick up enough to cover the costs, cheap online competition and €10,000 a year in rates.
'Our staff have been brilliant and the landlord cut his rent. Everybody helped except Wexford County Council which has been extremely unhelpful. We tried to rent the first floor which is vacant and get a rates abatement, but they said we couldn't do that and needed a second valuation.'
Mr Schnittger said he went to the valuation office in Dublin and was given an on-the-spot valuation. However, the council told him 'that wasn't good enough' and they would have to come down to do a valuation.
'I did my best to find a tenant, but at all times the total rates bill of €10,000, €4,000 for the vacant part, was always a threat to the business.. in fact instead of cutting our rates, they went up slightly,' he said.
'Unfortunately seven people are going to lose their jobs.
'It's the last thing we would have wanted.'
Asked whether a cut in the rates would have helped the business survive, Mr Schnittger said 'it would have definitely allowed us to continue for a little longer.
'Rates are a fundamental problem for small independent businesses, competing against online retailers who keep their stock in warehouses and pay much lower rates, endent business
'We lost 40 per cent of our trade in the recssion and it just never came back.. we used to sell a lot of good qauality children's shows from €40 upwards and now people are buying from the ALDIs and LIDLs and Dunnes and you can't really blame them.. the future of the high street is the multiples,' he said.
Mr Schnittger said he expected McKeon's to finally close it doors by Christmas.
McKeon's, which used to be owned by well-known Kilkenny businessman George Farrar, was always a traditional shoe shop, far removed from the discount shoe stores which pop up selling no-name brands in towns throughout Ireland.
When times were good, women visiting Wexford for a weekend away would often buy four or five pairs of expensive shoes at a time during shopping trips to McKeon's.
'The customer who would have bought several pairs of good shoes at a time is now only buying one pair,' outgoing manager Jacinta Hartigan, who has been with McKeon's since it opened in Wexford in 1994, said some time ago in a portent of the shape of things to come.
Madeleine Quirke, CEO of Wexford Chamber, said 'It is always sad to see any shop on the Main Street closing down for whatever the reason.
'I would like to say thank you to the staff who have really been part of the family shopping experience here in Wexford.
'You will be missed by everybody,' she said.