‘Save Christmas for our traders’ appeal to Newtownabbey public

Shoppers are urged to support Newtownabbey’s traders in “whatever way they can” with a new phase of restrictions coming into effect on Friday.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 6:08 pm

The Executive’s announcement of two-week circuit breaker in response to the pandemic means non-essential retail closing and the hospitality sector unable to re-open on November 27.

The beleaguered town centre businesses which rely on a festive boost are now depending on social media, online presence, a controlled ‘click and collect’ service and being allowed to open again on December 11 to save some of the season.

A group representing traders in Whiteabbey has suggested businesses could be faced with closure if they are not supported.

Council opted for a virtual programme of switch-on events for the festive season.

Derek Kernoghan, chair of Whiteabbey Village Association, said: “Given the uncertainty and lockdowns that businesses have faced, it is important for everyone to support local businesses to help our villages and towns to survive. There is a risk if there is no recovery there may be businesses faced with closure.”

Karl Wilson and his brother have been trading at The Paper Shop in Ballyclare since 2000. He said: “It’s so important for people to shop local this year more than any other during these very challenging times. The last thing we want is more empty shops in our town.”

Echoing this appeal, the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery said: “As we approach a further two-week lockdown across the non-essential retail sector, some of our businesses will experience a further downturn in sales.

“As businesses continue to experience hardship due to the pandemic, I’d encourage everyone to play their part in supporting them and helping our local economy recover.”

The Executive’s announcement of the circuit-breaker took many by surprise and drew anger from Retail NI.

Its chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This appalling decision will be a hammer blow to our already struggling high streets and for thousands of independent retailers forced to close at the most important trading time of the year.”

With a surge of shopping anticipated before Friday, Mr Roberts appealed for people to shop safely and asked them “to make a special effort this week to support independent retailers that are being forced to close for two weeks”.

The Executive this week announced a raft of funding packages including £95million for a High Street Voucher Scheme for a pre-paid card, £55million to extend the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme to include non-essential retail, leisure, and entertainment businesses now forced to close; £10.6million to support 1,000 wet pubs which are experiencing additional financial hardship, £5million to top-up the Tourism and Hospitality Scheme.

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