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Public are urged to back local shops on Independents' Day

By Margaret Canning

The owner of a shoe shop in Co Down has urged the public to support independent retailers as preparations begin for a day's celebration of small shops.

Michael Donaghy, owner of Donaghys in Banbridge, said independents like his were the lifeblood of towns around Northern Ireland - but they needed the support of the public.

Donaghys is joining other retailers in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) council area for the UK-wide Independents' Day on July 4. Mr Donaghy said Banbridge people were strong supporters of his business but added: "It's been a difficult couple of years in retail and everyone has found it hard, probably since 2008.

"A problem for Banbridge has been out-of-town shopping centres - they have been a big attack on the independents. There's the dreaded car parking issue, and Banbridge is short on car parking. It's hard to compete with someone like Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon where they have a few thousand free spaces.

"But we do have five hours' parking for £1, something which was introduced at Christmas which we've been able to keep."

He said Banbridge had a strong portfolio of independent retailers, including clothes shops Katriona, Houstons and SD Kells, and giftware and furniture shop Porters.

"Customers don't want to see the same homogeneous high street with the same brand names as anywhere else," he said.

He said the business was now a third-generation concern after his nephew joined to look after its website. ABC Lord Mayor Darryn Causby said: "Independent retailers and consumer-facing businesses are the lifeblood of our local retail centre, adding social and commercial value to the places in which we work, live and enjoy.

"Indeed, statistics show that for every £1 spent with a local, independent business, between 50 and 70p circulates back into that local economy. It's vital that we do all we can to drive home the 'shop local' message to help town and city centres enjoy higher footfall, longer consumer dwell time and lower vacancy rates."

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, which is helping organise Independents' Day, said the ABC council had "world-class independent retailers".

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