Belfast Telegraph

Lighting design outlet to close after 37 years

By Clare Weir

A Londonderry business is closing its doors after nearly 40 years of trading in the city and braving the worst violence of the Troubles.

T&E Howie Lighting Design on Strand Road will continue to operate a lighting design arm of the business but the manager now says that the city centre retail outlet is no longer viable.

Paul Howie said the company has been left with little choice but to close the shop amid "the worst trading conditions" the business has known since it first opened in 1973.

Mr Howie, who has blamed internet trading and a lack of government support for small family retailers who were also trying to compete with a global market, said the decision to close has been taken "with deep regret and sadness".

"We have traded throughout the Troubles, through all the bombs, fires and thefts. We have extended and modernised but we can simply no longer continue in the high street with parking restrictions, higher rates and other issues," he said.

"It is very sad that we have been forced to take this decision.

"There is no way an independent retailer can compete with internet traders who operate in a global marketplace with relatively low costs, or with the multinationals.

"At all levels, local, national and regional government, there is little or no support for independent retailers. Instead there are rising rates, costs, red tape and bureaucracy - all at the same time as the public are finding they have less disposable income.

"Our suppliers have increased their costs maybe four times this year, and these are costs we cannot pass onto customers. Then you look at the banking sector, bailed out by the government yet they will not lend to small businesses."

Mr Howie claimed unless trading conditions improve, banks begin to lend again and government gives more support to independent retailers, the future looks "bleak" for many of Derry's small businesses.

He added that he would discourage anyone from opening retail premises in the current climate.