Updated: 08/05/18 : 12:14:11
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How Brexit is changing the Sligo business landscape

Sharp drops in Sterling are impacting businesses in Ireland with one company redirecting its focus from the UK back to the domestic market.

Fergal and Kevin Quinn are entrepreneur brothers from Sligo who run a number of businesses including nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and a party package company.

For the last number of years, their stag and hen party package company, HenandStagSligo.ie, has had a steady 70pc of its customers come from the UK – primarily Northern Ireland.

However, while their overall business has increased in the first quarter of 2018, they have seen a sharp downturn — of around 20pc — in customers from the Northern Irish market and had to change its marketing and advertising focus from the UK back to the Irish market.

“Brexit and the knock-on effects on Sterling has really impacted on our business and forced us to change our target markets. Customers for our company, which sells hen and stag party packages, used to be 70pc Northern Irish, helped by our proximity to the market. Since the start of 2018, that mix has changed to 50pc from the North and 50pc from the South of the island,” said co-founder Fergal Quinn.

'Reacted early'

Mr Quinn said that the number of bookings for restaurants – and hotels locally – from Sterling customers had also dropped. The Northern Irish market, he added, was extremely important for Sligo given its location closer to the border.

“We were lucky as we reacted early to the change in the market and, last year, we upped our concentration on the market in the South of the country, particularly in Dublin. Our business overall has increased in the first quarter of the year and we are hoping that momentum will continue but if we had not reacted early and changed our target market focus, our business would have suffered. Bookings for customers using Sterling only accounted for 50pc of our business in the first three months of the year, which is a big drop.”

The company refocused its advertising away from Northern Ireland and the UK and into the rest of the Republic. Fergal said, “We have had to go stronger in our marketing and advertising in general; we are really fighting a lot harder than we had to. With online marketing tools, you can really target areas such as Dublin and be really specific so it has made it a lot easier for us to pivot and target the right people.”

“The typical stag or hen party package costs between €140 and €160, with the average person spending at least another €100 - €200 per person during the weekend. This makes these parties important business for towns like Sligo which has not seem the same recovery as other parts of the country.”