Row over St Patrick's Day Parade leaves retailers and organisers at odds

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Kilkenny Advertiser, January 27, 2012.

By Naoise Coogan

Retailers across Kilkenny city have asked that the St Patrick’s Day Parade which is planned for Saturday March 17, be held on Sunday March 18, in a bid to prevent a negative effect on retail sales in the city on the busiest retail day of the week.

A meeting takes place this afternoon of the organisers and the St Patrick’s Day parade committee in City Hall to iron out the difficulties that currently exist between the members and the groups that they represent, including the John St Traders, the High Street Traders, members of Kilkenny Chamber, Fáilte Ireland, and the borough council.

Vice president of Kilkenny Chamber Donie Butler, centre manager at MacDonagh Junction shopping centre, has proposed that the committee run the traditional parade on Sunday rather than Saturday in a bid to prevent a drop in sales at a very challenging time of year for retailers.

“This year presents an ideal opportunity to maximise our national holiday event for the benefit of retail and jobs in Kilkenny city. With the national holiday falling on a Saturday this presents a substantial challenge and threat to retail business if the parade is to go ahead on March 17. However it also presents a once in seven year opportunity for Kilkenny to be innovative and creative and turn the national holiday into a festival weekend for the people of Kilkenny city and county.”

He added that the potential for the entire weekend to be a major disaster for retail is very much a live one.

“As it presently stands Saturday will be a closed day, followed by Sunday a closed day, and Monday a further day off for those working Monday to Friday. This has the capacity to virtually wipe out retail business for the entire weekend and not just the Saturday in Kilkenny,” he said.

He added that the parade hinders the business of retail other than for the hospitality sector on the day, and the vast majority of retail businesses in the city end up closing because of traffic restrictions and crowd control barriers being put in place to restrict movement of people, and thus it is not commercially viable for retailers to open.

However chairman of the St Patrick’s Day parade committee Malcolm Noonan disagrees.

“I think that the parade will bring people into the city and if we plan to hold the parade earlier in the day than normal, then people will come into the city early in the morning for the event and stay for the afternoon to shop or to attend other events that will be going on around the city. Almost all the parades around the country are being hosted on the Saturday as that is the national day. We do need to strike the right balance so that we don’t adversely affect business,” he said.

Mr Butler pointed out that by hosting the event on Sunday, Kilkenny would have the opportunity to attract bands and acts from other parades around the country to perform in Kilkenny.

“In the current climate there are no real apparent justifiable reasons for Kilkenny not being open for business on Saturday March 17 this year. However this will involve a properly planned approach and the support of all of the parade stakeholders including the parade organisers, the local authority, the Gardaí, the Civil Defence, etc, the local print and electronic media as well as a strategic advertising and media campaign,” said Mr Butler.

The meeting takes place this afternoon at City Hall. An outcome will be expected this evening.

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