Ballymena high street rebounds to defy the downturn
The shopping mecca of Ballymena continues to challenge the economic downturn, with independent traders reporting a 3% rise in sales over the last year despite the financial climate.
Ten retailers in Church Street and Bridge Street reported the rise, while vacancy rates also bucked the national trend, with five new start-ups since April 2012.
The figures were released after the completion of a £150,000 revitalisation programme for the town, funded by the Department for Social Development (DSD).
Under the programme, 48 traders in the town's two best-known shopping thoroughfares received funding for major improvements to shop and gap site facades, supported by promotional activities to help increase footfall into the town centre.
Ballymena mayor PJ McAvoy said that the revitalisation programme received tremendous support from businesses.
"The traders of Church Street and Bridge Street worked together to provide a much brighter and vibrant street appearance for local shoppers and helped transform one of Ballymena's main shopping areas," he said.
"Ballymena Borough Council is fully committed to supporting future town centre initiatives to maintain Ballymena's position as the number one provincial shopping town."
Willie Alexander, chair of the revitalisation programme steering group, added: "Despite the economic pressures on the independent retail sector, the delivery of the programme has coincided with a decrease in vacancy rates and a selection of traders experiencing annual sales increases above the UK average.
"We hope that the Department for Social Development will use our programme as a blueprint for success and deliver its funding to other parts of Ballymena to help sustain the retail economy of the town."
Walter Hutchinson of the DSD said that the work had clearly increased the market confidence of many independent trader businesses in the area.
To mark the completion of the programme, shoppers are invited to 'shop until they drop' tomorrow to be in with the chance of winning prizes as part of a retailer Golden Ticket promotion.
There will also be a wide range of activities available for all ages.
The number of new start-ups in the town since April 2012