THE Outlet Village “urgently” needs major development of Phase Two at Bridgewater Park.
That is the strong view of a local councillor and the manager of a clothes shop at the retail centre which is set to shut tomorrow (Wednesday), making all eight staff redundant.
Pilot, a UK clothing company, notified staff around three weeks ago that it was to shut its only store in Ireland due to falling trade.
And surfer shop Billabong is also due to close its doors this Sunday March 18.
Pilot opened just under five years ago and sold high street brands “at affordable prices” according to its website. Manager Michelle Miskimmin said the store had a loyal customer base but admitted that, with the economy in its current fragile state, staff had to “fight for every sale”.
Michelle said the retail village, which opened in 2007 and relied heavily on cross-border trade, needs a major boost soon.
“It is quiet up here,” Michelle told the Leader. “The start of the week is quiet but then that’s to be expected. Things pick up at the weekend but you can’t depend on weekend trade.
“This whole business with Tesco is very disappointing. I feel Banbridge doesn’t get behind the Outlet - but something needs to happen here soon.
“I can see that the local traders are worried about their businesses too but it is going to have a knock-on effect everywhere if people lose their jobs at the Outlet.
“There’s something closing all the time these days. And if local people are out of work they aren’t going to be spending money anywhere, whether that’s the town centre or at the Outlet.
“Even the amount of jobs alone Tesco would bring would be great for the area, and they’re badly needed.”
Local councillor Seamus Doyle, a long-time supporter of further development at Bridgewater Park, said the sense of urgency is clear.
“There are hundreds of jobs up at the Outlet, many of them local, and we need to not only save them but to create more.
The number of jobs a superstore like Tesco would bring, and the amount they would pay in rates would be a real boost for the area.”
Michelle said she and her staff are now on the look-out for jobs, and praised the management at the Outlet for their support.
“They are very good up here, they would let you know if there was something available and if they feel it might suit you or you’d be good at it then they help you out,” she said.
But the current state of the job market, with high unemployment and high demand for few vacancies, presents an uncertain picture, said Michelle.
“I have two children to support and need to get a job as soon as I can. I would like to stay in retail of course but then way I look at it, if it pays the bills I wouldn’t care.”