Like it or loathe it, the Christmas shopping period will begin in earnest in Galway City on Friday with the launch of the Galway Continental Christmas Market.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be lighting up Galway on the night, when he turns on the Christmas lights in the city and, from then until Tuesday 24 December, Galway City businesses will be doing their utmost to attract shoppers into their stores, with a view to spending their Christmas budget in Galway.
Encouraging people to spend, never mind spending locally, will again prove difficult this year, as the country is still fighting its way out of recession. That effort will have been further hindered by our friends in Revenue, who couldn’t have reminded people at a worse time that they have a major Property Tax bill falling due come the new year, amongst the annual others.
And, with the average three-bed semi owner facing a bill in the region of €315 next year and 1.8 million people reporting that they have just €100 or less disposable income left per month once essential bills have been paid, it remains to be seen what sort of Christmas people, and, by default, retailers will have.
The second Irish League of Credit Unions ‘What’s Left’ survey in September indicated that disposable incomes had shown some signs of improvement since May, with a six per cent increase, from €163 in May to €172 in September.
However, while offering some hope to Galway people and indeed Galway businesses, it also offered a stark reminder of the depth of the problem facing some people, with 1.18 million adults found to have €50 or less left at the end of the month.
What that means for the local economy remains to be seen, but we can all play our part by doing our best to spend part, if not all, of our Christmas in Galway this year.
Galway Chamber no doubt will be launching their annual campaign in that regard soon and this year, Galway City Council are doing their part to make the prospect more attractive to shoppers with their free parking and Park and Ride initiatives.
And, the good news for shoppers is that the move seems to be snowballing, with a number of Galway retailers offering free teas and coffees and individual deals on a variety of goods to people who shop during the designated hours.
Whether you have a tenner or a thousand to spend this Christmas, do yourself and our city a favour by considering Galway first. You are protecting local jobs and supporting the local economy.