The events of the last 20 months have led to widespread focus on the long term vitality of Dublin’s retail core. The past decade has seen the fallout of the Great Financial Crisis, Brexit, and the emergence of online shopping as a staple consumer habit, all of which impacted the retail sector before Covid-19 arrived to further shake things up.
Dublin City Centre was the most Covid- impacted retail location in Ireland due to a collapse in tourism, the widespread adoption of home working, and the closure of non-essential retail. So what is the future for Dublin’s retail core?
Recovery in City Centre Retail
It appears that despite the persisting narrative that we are all destined to stay at home with our goggles on, people like to go into shops. CSO statistics show that online retail sales in Ireland jumped from 4% of the total to a high of 16% during 2020, but that by July 2021 had fallen to 4% again.
Volume & Value of Irish Retail Sales, and Proportion of Retail Sales Generated Online, 2015-2021
The reason Dublin City suffered so badly during Covid is clear when you look at the sales of Clothing & Footwear which dominates the City Centre’s retail offer. These collapsed by 82% in 2020. When the shops reopened they grew by 510% and, on an overall basis, retail sales are now back above 2019 levels.
The recovery in spend is not surprising when you consider the Irish consumer has, in aggregate, never been wealthier. Based upon savings and debt reduction alone, they are €90bn better off than in 2011.
Dublin City Centre is well positioned to capture this potential retail spend and the key will be customer experience.
There is a shake-up in retail underway in the City Centre. The departure of the UK’s Brexit casualties (Debenhams, Top Shop, Monsoon and Coast to name a few) has created the opportunity to revitalise the retail offer with more international brands such as Lululemon & Canada Goose opening, further differentiating the City Centre from the competition.
The other big opportunity for the City Centre is the fundamental shift toward experience taking place in the retail sector. Customers want to be engaged, and interesting city centres like Dublin have the ability to do this in a way that purpose-built shopping destinations cannot emulate.
Presenting Dublin as a composite offer with an unrivalled mix of cultural, food & beverage, social and shopping offers is its winning formula and insurmountable advantage in the battle for shoppers’ attention.
A consistent focus on user experience, making sure that positive experiences are amplified and any negative experiences are confronted and dealt with is the route to a successful retail destination. Make Dublin City Centre the most pleasant place to spend time and the shoppers will come.