Belfast Telegraph

Belfast city centre facing a miserable Christmas

By Claire McNeilly

It has been over a month since Primark's flagship Belfast store went up in flames. The blaze burned for three days, engulfed the historic Bank Buildings and left a burnt-out shell - as well as a sprawling safety zone - in its wake.

The cordon is due to remain until December, creating a no-go area for shoppers and, this year, people expect festive Belfast to resemble A Tale Of Two Cities rather than A Christmas Carol.

Retailers have slashed staff and opening hours because footfall has fallen off a cliff.

Customers, who say Royal Avenue has been sliced in two, opt to go to shops at one end (like M&S) or the other (Debenhams) - but seldom both.

It means that in a very short space of time the once busy and bustling city centre is no more.

It's definitely decision time, with widespread clarion calls to either reduce the safety cordon or raze the ravaged building and rebuild it.

The festive atmosphere in shopping centres may be as traditional as Santa himself, but an increasing number of savvy shoppers head online.

That's why leaving the cordon as it is just not an option. If Belfast doesn't act now it will be too late. After all, customers are for life, not just for Christmas.

Belfast Telegraph

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