Shop local and shop safe is message to customers as town 're-opens'

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

Mid and East Antrim Mayor, Cllr Peter Johnston, is calling on shoppers to show their support for local retailers as they join in the 2020 Retail NI Independents’ Day on 4 July

Ballymena’s retail centre is gradually starting to look busier with more people willing to venture ‘downtown’ for a taste of the new normality.

To be honest, it’s not perfect at the moment with queues for shops and toilet facilities causing frustration but as protocols hopefully change and the COVID threat recedes there will be a real need to back local stores and bsuinesses.

And to help that cause, Council is branding Independents' Day UK as a chance for local people e to show support for the independent retailers they value most in the local community.

Independent business owners account for around 65% of the approximately 290,000 retail outlets in the UK.ies.

The Mayor hopes shoppers will give their backing to the campaign and support retailers now and throughout the year.

He said: “Mid and East Antrim is open for business, and I hope our community will show their support for our smaller, independent retailers as we continue to move out of the lockdown restrictions.

"Many of our businesses have been there to support us when we needed them. Some have stayed open on the ‘front line’ to serve the community and it is now our turn to repay the gesture and give them back the support they deserve.

“The Independents’ Day Retail NI campaign is the perfect way to send a message to our local businesses, who are providing employment in our borough and helping to grow a strong local economy, that they are valued.

“There will be plenty of special offers for shoppers, so I urge everyone to #ShopLocal, #ShopSafe.”

Alderman Audrey Wales MBE, Life Member and former President of Ballymena Chamber of Commerce and a former independent retailer in the town, said:

“There is no doubt that our business community has faced many challenges as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown.

“It is great to see the buzz that has returned to our towns and villages in recent weeks, and I look forward to even more of our businesses reopening their doors during July.

“Local people have always supported our retailers and I know they will want to join in the Independents’ Day campaign and #RediscoverMEA and all we have to offer.”

A newly established Town Centre Recovery Group is leading the way in ensuring a safe and sustainable return to normality for shops and businesses throughout Mid and East Antrim.

Headed up by Council with representation from key local business leaders, the group has been focused on helping retailers in our three main shopping towns reopen their doors safely, so that shoppers can have peace of mind that all appropriate measures are in place.

The Town Centre Recovery Group is also working on access to PPE, managing social distancing in restrictive streets, street cleaning, infrastructure to manage traffic flow and delivering the #RediscoverMEA messaging to the public through a bespoke and targeted marketing campaign.

Council’s specially designed COVID-19 Retail Support Packs have proven extremely popular among the business community with a range of additional support measures in place to boost town centre recovery.

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