Sadness as Belfast's Craftworld closes after 34 years
Craftworld - one of Belfast city centre's best-known retailers for decades - has announced it will be closing.
The craft and hobby retailer made the shock announcement on its Facebook page yesterday, citing online competition and the impact of the 2018 Primark fire as major factors.
Known as a treasure trove for local artists, hobbyists and more, the family business was first established in 1976 and originally traded on Queen Street as a department in Leisureworld, once Northern Ireland's best-known toy shop.
The closing down statement read: "It is with deep regret and sadness that Craftworld will be closing its doors after over 30 years in business.
"This has been a very hard decision to make but due to the downturn in retail sales, online giants, the Primark fire, bus lanes and limited parking we can no longer stay in business.
Share your memories of Craftword with us - email firstname.lastname@example.org
"We would like to thank all our regular customers for their support over the years and will miss you all."
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The business will continue to trade as it sells its remaining stock.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said that he was saddened by the loss of yet another independent retailer from Belfast City Centre.
"It's been a very long-standing retailer in Belfast City Centre, it's gone through some tough times, particularly during the Troubles when much of it was being blown up on a weekly basis," he said.
"It's a real shame they couldn't see this present difficult patch through.
"It just goes to show that not only for Belfast, but all our cities and towns, that we need a big, bold radical plan to make 21st century town and city centres."
Mr Roberts said the loss showed the urgency of restoring Stormont to help local traders survive.
"We need to get transport right, rates and all of those things that are so important to the city centre.
"I'm saddened also by the further impact this will have. It's not just on the staff but there will also be less footfall for the other traders on Queen Street.
"I really hope the staff find alternative employment soon.
"The one thing that Belfast City Centre desperately needs is more independent retailers."
Hundreds of customers were quick to voice their disappointment on Craftworld's Facebook page.
Rebecca Mullan said: "I visit every time I'm in Belfast.
"Bought everything for my wedding invitations and favours 17 years ago.
"Very sad to see you go!"
Victoria Robertson added: "I am honestly gutted and so upset! Craftworld has been my favourite shop since I was little!"
Keen crafter Nicola White called it "the end of an era".
She added: "Belfast won't be the same without you."