Waterford Chamber says it is hugely disappointed to hear of the closure of Argos, but remains optimistic that the future of retail is Waterford is looking bright.

Following the announcement that Argos is to close all its Irish-based stores in the coming weeks, including the unit on Georges Street, Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber said, “While this is a blow to the city centre, we must now put our efforts into securing a new long-term tenant for what is a prime location.

“We understand that retailers globally are under increased pressure but we know from a feasibility study we commissioned with EY which is about to be published, that the opportunity to create a vibrant city centre is within our grasp.

“According to a new RIKON report, which has been developed for Waterford City & County Council, there is an approximate 635,000 catchment population within a 60-minute drive from Waterford City with a retail expenditure in existing stores at €726m with a current Retail Leakage opportunity of €614mn. By 2040, the retail spend opportunity in the Waterford City Region will be €1.49bn which is driven by a combination of the current retail leakage opportunity (€614m), rising annual tourism spending (€107m by 2040) and driven by a rising population with higher disposable incomes (€675m).

 “The total expected 2040 annual retail spend for Waterford City arrives at €2.2bn which incorporates €1.49bn retail spend opportunity in addition to the current retail spend of €726m in the city.

“We need everyone in business to be shouting these figures from the rooftops. The opportunity is there, we now need to grasp it.”

The EY feasibility study, Waterford: A University City - The opportunity to create a vibrant city centre, which was commissioned by Waterford Chamber, was designed to identify opportunities within the city centre which will attract investors and create a vibrant city centre with added footfall, reverse the retail leakage and develop a city in line with the ambitions set out in Project Ireland 2040.

The report identifies four areas for regeneration where a student presence has the potential to increase footfall and commercial activity and attract more retail and service providers.

“The unit now to be vacated by Argos is in the heart of this feasibility study which we are about to publish and with the planned increase in student population and the outputs from the Waterford Metropolitan Development Plan, we need to be confident that the retail offering in Waterford is on the up and the future is bright”, concluded Mr Hurley.