#parent | #kids | ‘Sound’ retailers won’t be out the Gap anytime soon  | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

“Long time, no see, kid! How’s the family? Is your niece in college already? I remember her as a smallie like it was yesterday. By Jaysus, the years don’t be long going. Baltic out there, isn’t it? Tell your mam I was askin’ for her, won’t ya?”

Online shopping has seduced us all in recent years due to its convenience, but online shopping doesn’t ask how you’re doing, how the family is, tell us that ‘you’re looking unreal since I last saw ya, girl’.

Websites don’t tell you that you look midaza in that shirt, apps can’t sympathise on the loss of a loved one, online portals don’t throw in a few bits extra for your mam or dad for nottin’ on the QT.

Retailers and their staff can. Cork city centre’s people do it better than most.

The city centre that we knew and loved over the decades is changing rapidly as the advent of online shopping becomes the norm, but its soul remains intact.

Opera Lane lost another outlet this week with American clothing store Gap announcing it will close by September, a further blow to the city centre and arteries off Patrick St as the traditional wrestles with the new.

Doomsayers are convinced it is the beginning of the end for city centres like Cork and Limerick.

Traditional thoroughfares cannot compete with out-of-town shopping centres and online offerings. They are fighting a losing battle on two fronts, trapped in a pincer movement that is relentless in its progress.

Debenhams, Monsoon, Oasis, Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, and Warehouse are some of the casualties who have not made it.

If the bigger players can’t see a way out of a losing battle, what hope have the smaller retailers?

The naysayers may be right, eventually. But walking down Patrick St this week on a glorious summer’s day, I was convinced that won’t happen without the greatest fight.

It has become the corporate phrase de jour of late — to be a great leader or manager of people, so-called “emotional intelligence” is a must-have.

Dee Newman, with two decades of experience in fashion, styling and retail, is a personal shopping expert at Brown Thomas in Cork.

Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills are the five essential components, according to Daniel Goleman, the American psychologist who popularised it.

Recruiters salivate over job candidates who possess it in 2021.

Anyone who has been doing their shopping on Cork ity’s main street for decades could tell you that its retailers have been experts in emotional intelligence for generations. They just call it customer service and being good to people.

Or to pare it back to its most rudimentary, being sound to people like you and me.

Whether you’re “picking up a few messages” (that’s collecting various items in a few shops for those unfamiliar), panicking about that last-minute present for your other half, or want a good feed of grub to elevate the senses, there’s someone down Pana who’ll set you right every time.

For every Gap store that is lost, there is a Con Murphy’s or a Tom Murphy’s that soldiers on.

Established in 1938, Tom Murphy Menswear combines old-school retail charm with modern practice.

The multi-generational business divides its time treating you like a US president being fitted for a State dinner, and Facetiming customers in Australia to get proper measurements before sending a suit Down Under.

BUSINESS Tom Murphy of Tom Murphy Menswear, Patrick's St, Cork. Picture: Denis Scannell
BUSINESS Tom Murphy of Tom Murphy Menswear, Patrick’s St, Cork. Picture: Denis Scannell

Con Murphy’s, just a few doors away, have been outfitting fellas like me for 75-plus years, sending confidence through the roof as soon as I walk out the door with my new duds.

There’s John Wallace in Morleys Suit Hire at Daunt Square, who’ll get as much pleasure asking about your folks as he does in kitting you out for a wedding, and is a master in sensitivity if it’s a funeral that has brought you in that day.

Marion Creedon Hegarty will greet you with an infectious smile when you go through the doors of Top Image on the Grand Parade, before you’re lost in every type of fashion accessory for weddings, debutantes, casual, and business wear that you can think of.

If its a personal shopper you need to make you feel like a million bucks, fashion experts like Dee Newman in Brown Thomas will go the extra mile to make it happen.

It’s a vocation for people like Marion and Dee and Con and Tom and John.

Instead of accepting the demise of the main street as inevitable, why not embrace and enhance that unquenchable spirit?

How do you do that? There is no panacea, but making city centres like Cork liveable again is a good place to begin.

Living above shops, increasing public spaces, and making our streets evermore pedestrian, cycle, and disability-friendly is eminently achievable.

A village feel in a modern city centre. We’ve loved this wonderful city centre for hundreds of years.

It’s not only worth preserving, it’s worth enhancing.

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