Northern Ireland shopping centre loses Monsoon, Miss Selfridge, Evans
Another national retailer shuts up shop at town's Fairhill Centre
A leading Northern Ireland shopping centre is reeling from the loss of three national high street retailers as problems in the retail sector continue to mount.
Ballymena is counting the cost of losing a trio of long-standing fashion stores from the Fairhill Centre in just two weeks.
Monsoon is the latest chain to pull out of the town, shutting up shop on Saturday.
The departure of the ladies' and children's wear outlet comes a fortnight after the loss of Miss Selfridge at the same shopping centre.
That same day, outsize ladieswear chain Evans pulled down the shutters for the last time. Both are owned by the Arcadia Group.
It is understood that the loss of Monsoon was a decision taken directly by the company, owned by Peter Simon.
The landlord at the Fairhill Centre was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, curtain retailer Harry Corry is currently holding an end of lease sale before it closes at Braidwater in Ballymena.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said although he was sorry to hear of the loss of three high street names from Ballymena town centre, he had "every confidence" that the North Antrim town will bounce back.
"Ballymena has an excellent retail and hospitality offering. With the strong leadership of Ballymena Chamber of Trade and Ballymena BID (Business Improvement District), I am confident that the town will overcome these difficulties and continue to move forward."
However, he acknowledged that the businesses in the vicinity will be adversely affected by a decrease in footfall.
"It is not just a difficult time for the workers involved but it is a difficult time for surrounding traders."
Alderman Robin Cherry, president of Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that it was "very sad news".
He noted that Ballymena town centre is getting a facelift in the form of a public realm scheme and coupled with an improvement in the weather, he believes that this will attract more visitors.
He also welcomed the redevelopment of the Michelin and JTI factory sites following recent job losses.
The Michelin site will be transformed into a new hub for manufacturing firms. The JTI Gallaher factory site, which closed last year, has been bought by Ballymena company Wrightbus.
"I hope others will take similar advantage in the town centre," commented Mr Cherry.
Cllr Stephen Nicholl, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's BID representative, said that the council is working to identify new forms of activity in the town centre in a bid to increase footfall.
"One response as a council is to control the rates. Council has a key role to play."