Talks under way to fill 14 vacant retail units on Grafton Street as weekend shoppers return

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Weekend footfall in the city centre is now close to pre-pandemic levels, according to business group DublinTown.

ichard Guiney, chief executive of the Business Improvement District company, rejected suggestions that the number of vacant units on Grafton Street reflects a shift in retail patterns.

Mr Guiney claimed overall footfall in the city centre had returned to 85pc of pre-pandemic levels, with Saturdays and Sundays just 2pc and 4pc below pre-Covid numbers respectively.

He also said there were some “interesting” negotiations under way for many of the vacant Grafton Street units.

Mr Guiney was responding to comments made on social media by Robert Burns, a director of Fingal County Council.

In a Twitter post, Mr Burns said: “Walking on Grafton Street today and counted 14 vacant retail units along the length of the street, with only two of these looking like they’re being refurbished to open.

“New retail patterns, people staying in suburbs and workers hard to recruit. Normal or part of a wider change?”

Mr Guiney said it was “facile” to draw conclusions on the city centre’s economy simply based on “a shutter watch”.

“Change was happening before Covid and the pandemic served to accelerate some of those trends,” he said.

“Grafton Street will see some new openings between now and the autumn. I certainly wouldn’t be throwing in the towel for the city.”

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Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, remains upbeat

However, Mr Guiney admitted that major changes in work practices are having an impact for some city centre businesses.

“Mid-week, we’re definitely missing our office workers, but on some weekends we’re actually ahead of where we were in 2019.

“Dublin has retained a good balance of indigenous retail and people also come into the city to dine and for entertainment, arts and cultural events.

“The pattern is changing and you will probably see more evening time trade,” he added. “We’re just going to have to adjust and we’re working with traders to come up with initiatives to stimulate business.

“As things return to normal, it will even out, but it won’t fully get back to where it was pre-pandemic – that’s just the reality.

“The pattern in Dublin is similar to what we are hearing from our colleagues abroad. The international feeling is that we’ll get back to 90pc of where we were.

“Our recovery won’t be instantaneous, but it will happen and we’re on the right trajectory.”



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