Help us to help you, shops are urged

BANBRIDGE businesses are doing themselves no favours by closing on bank holidays.

That’s according to many locals who told the Leader they feel strongly that the shops could benefit hugely from the custom to be had from ‘holiday shoppers’ - which they said nearby towns are benefiting from instead.

The call comes just days after Banbridge-based clothing company Houstons Fashions Limited announced the closure of one of their stores, with the loss of 10 jobs.

And this week a prominent Banbridge businessman has spoken out about just how tough a time this is for business.

Andrew Crory, who runs Crorys Bridge Street clothing store, described the situation as “dire”.

“The current dire trading situation is putting huge pressure on big and small alike,” he said. ”The last couple of months have been the worst trading period that I can remember in 25 years as this. “My father is over 50 years in business and has never seen anything like it either. I am not sure if people generally realise how bad things really are. Perhaps this bad news will be a wake up call to some.”

Currently some Banbridge town centre businesses continue to close for a half-day on Wednesdays, and many do not have late night opening hours.

A number of Banbridge residents took to the Leader Facebook page to urge shops to take advantage of customers who may use their holidays to visit the town for a spot of retail therapy.

Banbridge town centre is sending out the wrong message, according to Andy Maxwell.

“It is no surprise whatsoever that on a day when most people are off work and can go shopping Banbridge is closed for business,” he said.

Dee Gordon agreed, saying, “I think it’s ridiculous! In today’s financial climate the shops in Banbridge (what’s left of them) obviously don’t want money. People are off on holidays and can’t shop in Banbridge so give trade to our neighbouring towns like Lisburn and Newry. Same old Banbridge, never any different!”

Giles Conlon joined the debate to say the nature of retail means staff should be available when customers need them.

“Banbridge needs to be open on holidays, staff can take holidays during quite times,” he said. “Shopping is a form of entertainment for some people - traders need to grab any opportunity to provide the service they are set up to do. If they are going to complain about not getting the bank holiday off - then they are in the wrong job!”

A businesswoman also expressed her surprise at the closures in the town.

Nicky Bury said, “As a business owner I’m amazed that the shops are shut. I do not spend beyond my means, I work hard and yet I now need to go and shop on a precious day off out of my local trading area. I’m a strong advocate of keep trade local but they’re not helping us to support them. It’s a shame!”

Meanwhile others are in support of shop closures on such holidays - saying staff deserve a break and there are already enough shopping days in the year.

Justin Weir said, “I think people and staff need a day off. If the shops were open then it just makes Easter Monday like any other day. What exactly are people missing out on by shops being closed on Easter Monday?

“We are in this economic climate today because people are spending beyond their means. Responsible spending is required so a bank/public holiday every now and again won’t do any harm.”

Local shoppers are not showing loyalty to Banbridge, according to Andrew Trimble.

“People from the town have no right to give off about it being closed on a bank holiday when they go to Lisburn or Newry over it most of time anyway,” he said. “My wife and mother commented after being in Banbridge on Saturday about how empty some of the shops were. Surely it is more financially astute for shops to close Easter Monday and save staff costs than it is to open and lose money because the town is dead?”

But Drew Gregg said the modern shopping trend requires longer opening hours to take advantage of all possible custom.

“The Outlet is open and advertises the fact, which brings people to the area to shop but then they find Banbridge town centre closed. It doesn’t really make sense. I know there are mixed opinions on this but really if Banbridge town is to be taken as a serious shopping town then it needs to take a fresh look at the opening hours including Sunday, late-night and holiday period trading.

“Lisburn, Newry and Craigavon seem to be open when Banbridge is closed. It used to be that five or six day trading was sufficient in retail but, rightly or wrongly, in today’s lifestyle it would appear that seven-day trading is what is expected.

“Personally speaking I wouldn’t mind one way or the other providing all shops would do the same thing, but they don’t and I don’t want to see Banbridge being left behind.”