More online, less half days - businesses urged

BUSINESSES need to embrace online sales and shopping and move away from half days and early closing.

That’s the view of Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Independent Trade and Retail Association, who has been in talks with Banbridge council and Chamber of Trade in a bid to revitalise the town centre.

Mr Roberts, along with Chamber President Joe Quail, met with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday (Monday) to discuss how Stormont can make it easier for businesses to weather the economic storm.

Yesterday’s gathering follows a meeting between Mr Roberts and Banbridge Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway to discuss how the council can contribute to “developing a modern town centre”.

Speaking to the Leader following that meeting Mr Roberts said he feels Banbridge has more of an advantage than many other town centres across Northern Ireland.

“The way I see it is there are more opportunities than problems,” he said.

“Banbridge has a very strong town centre. It’s not without its challenges but it’s one of the strongest in that area.

“It’s about how we can keep it that way and grow it.

“We can build on that status. And I welcome the fact we are working ever closer with the Outlet.”

The Leader has previously reported that high rates and the introduction of car parking charges in the town centre are some of the main gripes of traders, and Mr Roberts said that is still the case.

“The issues of rates and parking charges are two of the biggest challenges for traders,” he said.

“But as well as that we have to look at Stormont and how it could make things easier for retailers.

“You have at least four different departments with control over different aspects of town centre trading.

“That is something we think can be looked at and made more efficient.”

Council plans for public realm development, including development of Rathfriland Street and Solitude Park, were praised by Mr Roberts.

“There is no doubt that these are challenging times, but there is a very proactive approach being taken here and I think Banbridge is well-placed to move forward, especially promoting its independent retail sector.”