Dublin traders speak out about impact of bus strike on business

One newsagents worries it’s losing €1,000 a day, though most have sympathy with drivers’ cause...

Dublin traders speak out about impact of bus strike on business

Photocall file photo

We’re not even a third of the way through the planned six days of strike action from Dublin Bus drivers and whilst most of the coverage has focused on the 400,000 commuters whose daily journey is being drastically knocked out of whack, there’s a real business impact too.

Quite simply, when it’s a pain in the neck getting into the city centre (and perhaps even more importantly, getting back out in the evenings), people won’t be hanging around and putting their hands in their pocket, if they make it in at all.

Our own Bobby Kerr, on Newstalk Breakfast hosting duties this morning, revealed that his Insomnia coffee chain took a 19% hit in sales on Thursday alone. With that in mind, Newstalk took to the streets to see if the suffering was widespread, and how affected retailers were coping with, and feeling about, the industrial action.

The capital might not have been crammed with people for a Friday afternoon, but there’s still enough tourists braving the suddenly wet and wild autumnal weather to keep the place busy enough in general. Certainly the likes of Grafton Street haven’t been badly impacted.

Indeed, crossing the Liffey, staff at Desmond’s newsagents on Talbot Street actually saw an increase in customers yesterday, thanks not only to tourism, but also the fact that people opting for the train at Pearse Station are passing its door on the way to and from O’Connell Street.

One example of a silver lining, but for businesses situated near a bus stop and counting on that specific footfall, there’s a black cloud hanging over them.

Heading down the North Quays, Ia Iakobidze of chocolate café The Sweetest Thing had plenty of time to chat – because the Bachelors Walk spot was empty.

“It’s quiet all morning,” she sighed. "It’s been a very noticeable loss today and yesterday. The other days will have a big impact, I mean, there’s nobody around.

“Usually in the morning, I have regular customers making a line and I have none today.”

Asked how she felt about Dublin Bus drivers, she laughed: “It’s not my business!”

Nearby, across from the Ha’Penny Bridge, Mark Early in the Woolen Mills wasn’t pulling any punches.

“Am I supporting the drivers? Not at all, no, I’m dead against it! They get paid too much if you ask me.”

Clearly, they were costing him money.

“It was very quiet in the evening,” he said of the previous night, nodding that “it wouldn’t be far off” Insomnia’s 19% drop in Thursday sales.

“The bookings aren’t much tonight either; we’re pretty much relying on tourism. I don’t think the locals are bothering to come into town."

Things were even worse for Gala Express newsagents on Lower Abbey Street, where King Kumar estimated more than half of their usual customer count had disappeared.

“Because there’s a bus stop right there,” he said by way of explanation. “It will have a big impact. I’d say we’re losing maybe €1,000 every day in sales.”

He couldn’t get on board with the strike “because our business is affected”, but did shrug with acceptance: “I guess everybody needs money.”

“The other thing we have is the Luas work around here,” Kumar continued. “They closed it off all the way around.

"For the last six months, we are in trouble all the time.”

Another shop enduring a similar plunge in sales on the other side of the city was The Happy Shop on Burgh Quay.

“If not half, then near it,” Ahmed explained. “Certainly it’s affected us in the mornings and been very quiet compared to regular days.”

He had a little more sympathy for Dublin Bus employees than Kumar. “If I look at it from a business perspective, of course, yes, I would say that this is bad.

"But then I look at it in general – the people, why are they doing it? They wouldn’t go on strike straight away.

"They would go and speak to those people who have authority to increase the pay. So there is a real reason behind it.”

'Probably the worst thing that can happen to town'

Photo: facebook.com/FXBuckleyButcherShops

Veteran butcher Shay Collins of FX Buckley noticed how relatively abandoned town had been on Thursday.

“We probably had about 100 people less in,” he said of his own establishment. "Whereas it was fine with the Luas [strikes].

“I suppose you can understand why they’re going on strike, because of the Luas drivers. If they haven’t had a rise in seven years, I think they’re entitled to do it.”

In O’Brien’s Sandwich Café on Talbot Street, Peter Butterly foresaw real problems on Saturday September 24th.

“It’s 15% we’d be down yesterday. This morning it’s been okay, it’s ticking over, but it’s in the evening time that you feel it.

“Friday evening [is quiet] generally. A lot of our customers would be workers from the Mall and they'd be going to the pub and getting a few beers instead. We'll probably be quiet tonight.

"Saturday’s an odd day. If people can't get into town to do their shopping, the place will be like a desert. It really will.

“It's just annoying, tedious. If it's not the flipping Luas drivers, it's the bus drivers. And next it's going to be Irish Rail.”

The Luas works have also brought disruption, though luckily Butterly can count on a “core business” of about 3,000 workers from the Mall opposite, Irish Life and VHI.

“To tell you the truth with Dublin Bus,” Butterly proffered, “the management system shouldn't have allowed it to get to this stage. The company itself are losing such a large amount of money. It's crazy money to allow!”

Finishing up on O’Connell Street, newspaper seller Austin Cregan – a popular fixture on the capital’s main thoroughfare – noted that the lack of public transport had changed the mentality of passers-by.

“People are more focused on where they're going,” he said. “More concentrated on how they're getting there than doing anything else.

"You don't have people hanging around because they don't have the luxury of knowing they're getting on a bus.

“A bus strike always has a devastating effect on town. It's probably the worst thing that can happen to town.

“It's alleviated a little bit now with the fact there's a Luas. But other than that, you notice definitely, there's no old folks around this morning. Very few. That's huge. In the morning time, a big percentage of the people going around are the older people.”

Regardless, Cregan was sticking with the drivers.

“I always think the small guy never gets anything unless it goes to the wire.

“If you're on the gravy train – if you’re a politician or a banker or a barrister or a doctor – you don't have to do these things...

“Hopefully the increase that the bus drivers get will trickle down to the next people.”