Bangor traders deliver a stark warning
Use us or lose us - that is the stark message being given out by Bangor's independent retailers.
The traders have garnered support for a special campaign to remind residents to shop local from the start of April - and try to reduce the leaking of an estimated -pound;84.5m in consumer cash every year away from North Down.
With North Down Borough Council adopting a Diamond theme for its big Easter festival in honour of the Queen's jubilee, the group, Bangor Independent Traders, is drawing attention to the hidden gems in the town with diamond shaped window stickers.
Jayne Howson-Quigg, owner of The Deli in Market Street, is one of those behind the campaign, which is being backed by North Down Borough Council, the Chamber of Commerce, SERC, Bangor and Holywood Town Centre Management and the local art collective Firsty.
"People need to know that independent traders are people from Bangor running their businesses for the local community and to support their families. This isn't about grand corporations. We're trying to make a living and offer a personal service," said Jayne.
As part of the scheme, people calling into the shops and cafes displaying the hidden gem stickers can fill in a quiz form and be in with a chance of winning one of a number of prizes.
"Firsty we are going to design free posters for every trader that wants one," added Jayne.
She and the other retailers, Firsty, the Chamber of Commerce and council are keen to redefine Bangor as a creative hub.
Frankie Shivers, of Frankie's coffee house on Main Street, said: "It's all about heightening awareness of the independent traders in Bangor. If they don't start using us they'll lose us and a lot of traders will go to the wall as a result."
He referred to Game closing last week, the latest in a long line of nationals shutting up shop and added: "The independents are holding on better than the multiples because they can dig in and work longer hours."
He says there is scope for Bangor to become a Northern Ireland version of Brighton, which has a strong identity in terms of the coast, its nightlife and its reputation as a creative hub.
Town centre manager Stephen Dunlop has written out to businesses in the town urging them to get involved in the move. "I am always very keen to have local businesses drive their agenda and to support them," he told the Community Telegraph.
"We are here to support and to nurture not to take total ownership - we will take the lead when necessary but in this instance they want to call the shots and that's healthy."
In his letter to businesses he writes that TCM is hoping that Bangor will soon become the first town centre in the UK to offer free wi-fi and that other ideas in the pipeline were free all day parking at Queen's Parade, a loyalty card for all ratepayers to promote local spend and monthly weekend markets along the seafront.