A quick appraisal of my home town…
See the way i said town, and not city. I’d rather be a great town than a crap city.
Waterford has, arguably, been the worst hit county in Ireland of this shitty recession. Waterford Crystal and Talk Talk have been the two high profile job losses – two instances where in one foul swoop, hundreds of jobs were obliterated. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Countless pubs and restaurants, as well as smaller businesses have had to close down or tighten up their staff by 50% or more.
If you walk through the city centre after 6pm it’s like a ghost town. The bars and restaurants are empty, the shops are closed for the day, no doubt by a depressed retailer who only took in a couple of hundred euro that day. Taxis are lined up in queues longer than a jedward concert. Men sitting in a car for 9 hours straight clock out after making the sum total of €46 euro.
Competition in the hospitality industry has become fierce. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are doing things to entice customers that were almost unthinkable just a year or so ago. Let me give you a couple of examples:
There is a nightclub in Waterford called The Foundry. They are originally based in Carlow but came to Waterford after The Rubys and Muldoons complex became available at a knock down price. The Foundry has a great name in the Nightlife industry. They pack thousands into their venue in Carlow, all lining up with €10 in their pocket, just to gain entry. When the Foundry opened up down here their intention was to do what, they felt, nobody in Waterford had done before -offer the people a genuine, proper, night club experience. They planned to open 7 nights a week and have a door charge on each of those nights. It wouldn’t matter though, because surely people would pay for a superior product. What they didn’t know however, or what I presume they chose to ignore, was that the ship carrying the door charge in waterford had sailed a year or so before and had no intention of coming home.
Everyone could see it coming like a rabbit in the headlights. This thread on boards.ie was a chilling, nah that’s too strong a word, but it was a ghastly prediction of things to come for the foundry. They battled on regardless. By the way, in addition to their plans to open 7 nights a week, they also planned to build a new live music complex across the road, with their profits from the Foundry.
Now, before I go on, let me say that all this was, on the face of it, great for waterford. A nightclub operation, of some standing and respect, opening their doors to the people of waterford. However, it was almost going to be as ill advised as Rangers FC opening up a club shop in Lisduggan…
It didn’t take long for the Foundry to see that things were not as they thought they would be in Waterford. When they saw that their competition, Masons, were selling drink for 2.50 on tuesdays they decided they could not compete with that, so they closed on tuesdays. They released a quote on their facebook page at this time telling people that they would never sell discounted drink, “Our drinks are premium superior products and we would never sell watered down, or cheaper, inferior products”. this may have been an indirect dig, or accusation at their rivals across the road. Masons didn’t particularly care either way, after a short time, it became obvious that they were winning the battle for customers. The Foundry, no doubt shook, eventually closed their doors for the whole of the midweek, only opening for what would surely be the busy weekends. Uh oh…that didn’t happen either.
So, let’s press forward to the present day. The foundry now charge €5 on a friday and saturday night and sell ALL DRINKS for €2.50. A publican that I know from Clonmel couldn’t believe this was happening until he came down last Friday to see for himself. My personal opinion of this is somewhat in shackles, not because I work in the industry – I openly speak about waterford’s nightlife no matter who or where I work for. No, I’m in shackles because I can’t see their books. Yes I can presume that after paying all the overheads etc they surely can’t be making money but I don’t really know for sure, so I won’t dwell on it. But, the main issue here is Look what they have to do to get customers in the door in Waterford. They DO NOT have this problem in Carlow. Indeed, there’s a whole other chapter that I won’t get into now…(maybe this afternoon!) STUDENTS. The foundry charge 2 on the door and all drinks €2 for the students. Imagine how the carlow students must feel paying full whack on the door and full whack for the drinks?
So, not to get too obsessed with the foundry…all venues in waterford have had to do things they once thought unthinkable, just to generate some kind of turnover.
It’s not only the job losses though. Waterford’s urban sprawl has had a serious impact also. A large population of the town has moved out near the hospital and these people, if you took a poll, would tell you that they almost never come into town anymore. (except for special occasions).
Waterford is the first town in Ireland, I believe, that need to throw away the traditional books on Marketing. Every town and city must step it up a notch, but we’re forced to be the first. To be continued…