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'Car parking charges situtation is a real negative'

By Margaret Canning

McAtamney's Traditional Butchers has 12 branches in towns and villages around Northern Ireland, from Coleraine to Limavady and Magherafelt.

It opened in Limavady earlier this year when it acquired Hunters Butcher & Deli in the town, and has recently opened in the village of Galgorm outside Ballymena.

Its annual sales are £10m and it employs around 110 people. Co-owner John Apperley, who has worked in the business for 25 years, said it was not experiencing the fall in footfall reported by Springboard - though the sector did face many tough challenges.

"Our footfall is good though we are having to work harder to keep footfall. Our footfall has increased and we have opened a couple of new shops in the last few months.

"Our premises are all town centres and high streets. But I would say some of the towns themselves are struggling. I feel Coleraine is suffering with many people going to the Riverside Shopping Centre instead of town centre shops.

"But the biggest attraction to retail parks like Riverside is the free car parking. In towns the parking charges situation - and the red coats (a reference to the uniform of NSL staff, the private company which enforces parking laws) - is a real negative.

"There is a bit of uncertainty because of the political instability but we have never been scared to be pro-active. We wouldn't let outside factors put us off investing in the business."

He said the company also plans to open more branches. And the key to business was giving the customer what they want.

"Certainly it's all about keeping up with trends and customer demands, and offering good quality at competitive prices," he added.

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