Ferrybank’s new shopping complex will dilute footfall in an already underperforming Waterford city centre, according to a prominent retail expert.

David Fitzsimons, manager of nationwide retail network CREST Skillnet, told The Munster Express that projects “across the river” will inevitably lead to a negative impact for the city centre.

This followed the publication of a ‘High Street Productivity Review’ conducted on March 29th, which showed a drop of over 1,000 shoppers passing through the city centre when compared to the 2007 study.

However some mitigating circumstances were cited by the researchers involved in the Retail Excellence Ireland Skillnet/CB Richard Ellis review.

States the report: “The weather was more inclement than in 2007 and holidays are a factor as schools were off for the previous two week period. However, a decline in economic activity in the intervening period undoubtedly had some impact.”

On March 29th, an average footfall of 1305.5 was recorded; a tally arrived at by dividing the figures collated over two hourly periods at Broad Street (11am to Noon and 3 to 4pm).

This represented a decline of 1019 from the March 24th 2007 tally, which saw Waterford drop 15 places in the national rankings to 39th among the 52 areas studied nationally.

Meanwhile, Dungarvan’s Mary Street also experienced a drop, down 223 to 286.5, placing it 47th overall, having been 40th in 2007.

David Fitzsimons said that weather, the school holidays and the early Easter had to be taken into account when assessing this year’s figures, but were not entirely responsible for the local drop in ranking.

“There are some major issues facing retailers in cities and county towns,” he said. “It’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot more retail development out there, which is bound to have an impact.”

He also pointed out that costly rents are playing a significantly role in the industry, with many businesses being priced out of city centre locations.

“Waterford has issues just like any town or high street area,” Mr Fitzsimons continued.

“More joined-up thinking and more imaginative ways of generating additional business -be that through promotions, different opening hours and the like, are issues that all retailers have to consider.

“(Waterford) has got a lot going for it, there’s no doubting that when you take City Square, George’s Court and retailers like Fitzgeralds in the same area into account but there’s an awful lot of competition coming its way from across the river.

“New shopping centres that are built in the middle of cities and towns usually add to the footfall numbers…but out-of-town developments, such as the one across the river, will split the city.”

Mr Fitzsimons went further, stating that the positioning of a shopping centre so close to the administrative boundary “shows how poor we are when it comes to planning”.

Regarding the KRM proposal for the New Street/Michael Street area, Richard Fitzsimons feels that the Brewery development would greatly enhance the city centre as a retail location.

“Anything that is built within walking distance of already popular shopping areas gives extra cause for existing and new shoppers to see what’s available,” he said.

“And by building a major new centre within that area, that benefits everyone (retailing) there whereas something (built) out of town just diminishes footfall.”

According to the review, the average rent charged per foot in Broad Street area currently stands at €120, while Mary Street retailers in Dungarvan are being charged €50 over the same measurement.

The rankings, which were topped by the Mall in Tralee for the second successive year, are determined by comparing current market rent against current market footfall levels.