End of era as Samuel Lamont textile shop to close doors in Ballymena after 40 years
One of Northern Ireland's best known textile stores will close its Ballymena factory shop in February after 40 years in business.
Samuel Lamont & Sons Ltd is a family business which has been manufacturing and supplying a large range of household textiles for almost 200 years.
David Lamont, chairman of the Samuel Lamont Group of companies, said he was sad to have to close the store, but it was a business decision.
"It is a sad day, not least because it cuts our last link with Ballymena and the link of weaving we had there," he added.
"I am very sad to see the Ballymena store go. We are very much a family company and would encompass our employees as family as well. Several generations of families would have worked for us down through the years.
"I suppose it is a sign of the times - retail is getting more and more difficult. There are historical reasons why we kept the shop in Ballymena open."
Mr Lamont said the decision to close the store was difficult.
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"This has not been a sudden decision and not taken on a whim. We probably should have closed the shop some time ago," he stressed.
There are currently two "dedicated" part-time employees working in the store.
Samuel Lamont & Sons Ltd was founded in 1830 and became one of Northern Ireland's foremost linen weavers.
It diversified into textile printing and terry towel manufacturing in the 1950 and was a founding member of the Irish Linen Guild.
Its factory and warehouse site is located in Lurgan. Today it still manufactures in Ireland but also supplements that with products from abroad. It primarily deals in the business-to-business trade.
"We have a small manufacturing operation in Lurgan. Like most textile companies, we also import from China and India," said Mr Lamont. Ballymena newsagent Eugene Diamond said he was sad to see the shop close.
"Samuel Lamont always had a big Ballymena connection and would have been a fairly substantial employer for a long time. This is the end of their connection to Ballymena," he added.
"People in Ballymena will miss it, there's no doubt about it."
Mr Lamont explained the company would miss its connection to its Ballymena customers.
"We would very much have a sentimental connection with Ballymena and that was why we were reluctant to close it," he said. "However, I don't want to put too negative a spin on it.
"Things have moved on and there has been a change with the internet - it is the move from small retail to the internet."
Mr Lamont said the store would probably close in the middle of February 2020.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said he was sorry to hear the news.
"It is sad to hear that at this time of year. It is a shame to hear they are closing their doors. I wish Lamonts and the staff in the shop the very best," he said.
The closure marks a challenging time for retailers, especially local and independent retailers. Well-known department store Dixons of Coleraine will see 22 job losses when it closes in 2020.