Belfast Telegraph

Family-run stores are dying, warns analyst

By Clare Weir

Independent department stores are a dying breed in Northern Ireland, a retail analyst has warned.

Donald McFetridge from the University of Ulster was speaking as Montgomery's of Ballymena was put up for sale less than a month after closing down suddenly.

The store had operated on Ballymoney Street in the town for 82 years.

A total of 40 jobs were lost between the town centre location, which included a restaurant and coffee shop and a general store in the nearby village of Cullybackey.

The restaurant and ground and first floor retail premises are being sold or let as separate lots by Osborne King with all fixtures and fittings ready for immediate occupation.

Mr McFetridge said that in the current climate, finding a buyer or tenant, even for such a previously prestigious location, will not be easy in the current climate.

He stated: "Finding a suitable buyer will be far from easy or simple.

"Family-run firms like Montgomerys are constantly disappearing from our high streets and, right throughout the UK these days, it is becoming a much more common occurrence.

"What is most likely to happen is that the property will sit on the market for quite some time until a suitable tenant or purchaser can be found.

"High street chains who are struggling with their retail operations are unlikely to be interested as, during the rest of 2012, we are going to see further store rationalisation.

"Chains will continue to streamline their store groups by reducing the number of stores in their overall group portfolios.

"Independent department type stores like Montgomery's are a dying breed.

"We've seen the decline and demise of independent family run department stores in Northern Ireland becoming much more intense and it is most unlikely that the space will be filled by this sort of operator."

Montgomerys on Ballymoney street was founded in 1930 by Robert Montgomery and Robbie Murdock.

Robert Montgomery's eldest son, Steven, started working in the shop in 1968. He ran the shop with wife June and sons until the sudden closure earlier this month.