Mixed reports about the festive trade across Newtownabbey

Sales under way. INNT 01-017-FP
Sales under way. INNT 01-017-FP

SOME local traders have reported an increase in sales over the festive season compared to the same period in 2010 when the big freeze meant many shoppers simply stayed at home. But others haven’t been buoyed by a pre-Christmas rush, blaming reduced town centre footfall for an unseasonably slow end to the year.

It has been a tough 12 months for many local businesses, and some cash-strapped retailers have even closed down due to the harsh economic climate. But for those still fighting to turn a profit, the boost to sales over the festive season will be vital heading into the New Year.

Mark Stewart, Manger of the Abbeycentre, said footfall at the Longwood Road complex was up considerably on last year.

“We were a bit concerned in November and at the beginning of December as it seemed a little bit flat, but the last three weeks in December and this week (the week after Christmas) have been very strong,” he told the Times.

“Boxing Day was also very strong and certainly a lot better than last year which was a Sunday and we were restricted in our opening hours between one and six. But this year we didn’t have that restriction and I think a lot of the stores did very well.”

While not willing to divulge the exact footfall statistics, he did say that the number of people visiting the centre during December showed “a healthy increase” on the figures recorded for the same period in 2010.

Traders in the shopping complex will be hoping the post-Christmas spending spree continues well into the New Year as shoppers hit the sales in search of bargains.

Glengormley Chamber and Traders’ Association Secretary, Nigel Hamilton said the difficulties experienced by many business in the town had not eased during the run up to Christmas.

Pointing to “low footfall and poor trading conditions” and increased competition from the Glenwell and Northcott developments, he commented: “The hospitality sector such as restaurants, and sit-ins fared reasonably well as a result of Christmas parties and families eating out. However, the core trading businesses, the small shop keeper, continues to take the brunt of the reduced footfall in Glengormley and the low level of turnover in their tills sadly reflects this. It would be a fair analysis that the Christmas period did very little to bring cheer to these traders.”

But not all Glengormley business owners were downbeat about the level of footfall over the festive period.

Elizabeth Hill, owner of Roundabout Fashions, added: “Trade was quite good before Christmas, certainly nothing compared to last year which was absolutely diabolical because of the snow. Thankfully the weather was quite good in the run up to this Christmas, so we’ve certainly done a lot better than last year.

“With the recession biting it hasn’t been an easy year, but we would have a loyal customer base which we really appreciate. When times are tough like this you just have to work harder I suppose.”

Elizabeth hopes her business, which has outlets in Tramways and Castle Street, Carrickfergus, will enjoy bumper sales during January thanks to a half price winter stock clearance sale.