Dublin, Academia and Data!

I had the pleasure last week to be asked to speak to the Masters course at the Dublin Institute of Technology, which is home to Ireland’s main business school. I spoke about Britain’s retail economy and places looking at the structural changes taking place and the drivers behind these changes.

Dublin is a lovely and what I would describe as a personal city. The people are warm, friendly and busy. In fact it is the one place in the world that I have visited where every other person seems to carry a guitar or musical instrument of some sort! Ireland is home to some major companies including Google, Facebook and Salesforce and so in light of its size it is not difficult to understand how it could achieve such incredible growth in the past. This growth had a massive impact on Dublin’s retail as at one time it was the third most expensive retail destination in the world. Grafton Street is the main street, which is a smaller version of Oxford Street or Regent Street in London. It has all the key brands and whilst Superdry is not on Grafton Street it has a large store on one of the side streets. Interestingly, the street Superdry is on is a one-way street where most of the bus stops are for heading out of town. As the bus stops are on the opposite side of the road from the store I wonder if this helps or hinders their footfall. You can stand waiting for your bus and look across the road at their vast window displays but do you risk running the gauntlet of a road full of buses? In light of my flight time I chose to remain at my bus stop but was tempted!

Quick analysis with Damian O’Reilly over a pint of Guinness, who is one of the academics there as well as being very well informed and practiced in business, concluded that there are c.50,000 retail and leisure premises across Ireland but there are not many urban concentrations as in Britain. As such this makes Ireland’s stock to be roughly twice that of central London. The challenge for Ireland is that no one knows comprehensively who and where these shops, pubs and clubs all are! Stats and facts that I take for granted on a daily basis through access to LDC’s database are just not available in Ireland or indeed in may other countries globally. That said there is no reason why this can’t change and LDC has the technology and experience to do this and plans to do so in time. If you are a budding entrepreneur in a country with no data then get in touch!

Ireland’s retail landscape is very different to Britain. Whilst it does have a number of chain retailers the vast majority (77%) are independents. In Britain this stands at 66%. The convenience sector is a major case in point where it appears to be the backbone of most locations with regards the retail offer. The biggest challenge with regards data and the Irish retail sector is that there is no postcode system. This makes addressing somewhat sporadic and would require heavy reliance on a geocode but would make additional analysis challenging but not impossible. I am reliably informed that the Irish Government is introducing a postal code system in 2014!

The final interesting piece of information that I learnt was that business rates in Ireland operate very differently to Britain. If I understood it correctly what happens is there is a flat levy for an area and the number paying into that levy determines what rates you pay. So if lots of shops close down or are demolished then this left standing have to cover the difference! So whilst England & Wales have some significant business rates issues there are others with different issues but just as significant!

So all in all a great trip where I met some very interesting, bright and committed academics and students who I learnt a great deal from. The only thing I cannot confirm is that the Guinness in Dublin is better than a Guinness in Leicester but that is down to my ignorance as a Bitter drinker and not Guinness!

Thankyou Éireann agus anseo tá do thodhchaí na sonraí agus léargas chun cabhrú intinn agat do bhealach a dhéanamh!

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