Apprentice Boys' chief asks shops to open for march
With just 48 hours left until Londonderry hosts the largest annual Loyal Order parade there have been appeals for traders to open their doors for business.
Traditionally shops in Derry pull down the shutters when the Apprentice Boys parade is held.
An anticipated 15,000 members of the organisation — accompanied by 140 bands — are expected in the city.
Thousands more people will line the streets of the city centre to spectate.
William Moore, general secretary of the Apprentice Boys, said traders are missing a huge opportunity to make money.
He added: “We have always maintained that there are opportunities for shops and businesses who are proactive and open up during the celebrations.
“Our organisation brings coach loads of Apprentice Boys into Londonderry for the initiation ceremony which must take place inside the city walls.
“People are travelling here from all over Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. They come with their families so we contribute massively to the economy.
“On Saturday we can safely say there will be up to 30,000 people either taking part or watching the parade and it is important that the message they go home with is that Londonderry welcomes them, wants them to return and spend their money here,” he added.
“It is important that the shop shutters are up and doors are not locked against them. Even if the rewards are not there while the parade is going on, the visitors we draw into the city on Saturday will return at a later date.”
However, the head of the Traders’ Forum said the day when Derry is open for business during the Apprentice Boys’ celebrations is still a long way off.
Martin McCrossan said: “The reality is the thousands who will be here on Saturday are here for one reason and that is to march.
“We have tried this in the past but it has just not been worthwhile for shop owners to pay staff, heating and lighting costs to do absolutely no business at all.
“We are delighted to see the Apprentice Boys celebrate but there is no getting away from the fact that they are here to march and not shop. While some cafes along the route are busy, that's not the case for anyone else.
“We are also working with Billy Moore and others about how to make things different. Perhaps one day it will be different but that is a long way off.”