FOLLOWING the closure of two more shops in Banbridge in the past week the town centre is at risk of becoming a ghost town, locals have said.
Eight people will lose their jobs when Newry Street’s Bonmarche finally closes its doors after the announcement that a company takeover will see more than half of its UK stores shut in the near future.
And Bridge Street estate agents Stephenson and Cumming closed its doors on Friday after 22 years, with the two staff members relocating to the company’s headquarters in Portadown.
The company blamed the slump in the property market for the closure of the branch, which dealt mainly with sales rather than rentals.
With a threat of closure still hanging over Peacocks after the deadline for bids from potential buyers closed yesterday (Monday), local residents and shoppers have called for the town to be rejuvinated with some big-name stores to “put Banbridge on the map”.
And Councillor Jim McElroy says it is critical to the future of Banbridge that permission is given for a Tesco store at Bridgewater Park.
Most people commenting on the matter said they love the town and feel it remains unique among other centres across Northern Ireland but said the range of shops needs to be wider to attract those who may otherwise travel to Newry or Lisburn.
Kelly Scappaticci said, “I like Banbridge the way it is, it’s unique. But it needs a few hand-picked stores that will make it better. In all honesty we don’t want to be like Newry or Lisburn but we need a shop or two that will draw people in. Those shops are Dunnes, Primark or even Matalan. If I go out of town it’s because I’m looking these shops.”
Adele Doherty said people are sad to see shops close and customers go elsewhere.
“Having lived here in Banbridge all my life, like so many others, I just want to see the town do well and thrive like has done before,” she said. “Losing businesses in the town is awful and so many of us are being forced to shop elsewhere. It’s such a shame because even though there still are some great wee shops here, there just isn’t enough variety for everyone, and it’s what we need most in this town.
“Banbridge is a great town but it needs to be given the chance to become even better.”
But another local man said people need to support shops that come to the town centre in order to attract further investment in the area.
Responding to someone who said some other clothes shops which previously existed in the town had not been popular, the man said, “Perhaps the most important words in that comment is ‘nobody used them’. Maybe it is the Banbridge public that are to blame for a lack of decent shops in this town!”