Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland gift shop closing to let staff enjoy Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Royal wedding

By Michelle Weir

A Co Armagh giftware store has taken the unprecedented decision to close its doors on the busiest shopping day of the week.

Next Saturday (May 19), Alexander's of Markethill has decided to shut up shop at Keady Street to give all 43 staff the day off.

The exceptional closure day has been prompted by four high profile events that day.

As well as the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (right), closer to home it is a big day in GAA circles with the Ulster Championship between Armagh and Fermanagh. Racing fans may prefer a day on the North Coast for the thrills and sprills of the North West 200. It will also be the last day of this year's agricultural showcase, the 150th Balmoral Show in Belfast.

Alexander's said that the "exceptional closure" will let staff and customers "enjoy the day with their families and friends". As well as giving staff a "well-deserved day off", it will give them the chance to "enjoy one of these many great events". Owner Joanne Maxwell said that some staff had requested the day off.

"There was so much going on in our area we just thought we would take the day off so that everyone can enjoy it.

"The staff are very pleased. Everybody is interested in so many different things," she said.

"We have a farming community in this area that is interested in the Balmoral Show and a few motorbike enthusiasts.

"Some of the girls are interested in the royal wedding and one or two are interested in the GAA."

She added: "We are very close-knit, very family orientated and have a lot of staff who have been with us for 18 to 20 years."

The devoutly Christian Markethill family will celebrate 65 years in business next year.

Mrs Maxwell said: "Our parents before us always put staff first if they could.

"For example, if someone was going through troubles at home or illness, they were certainly concerned and if they were able to do something about it, they would try to help."

But she admitted that the business can't really afford to lose a day's trade. "When you take into consideration that there are different events on, we just thought it might be a quiet day."

Staff will be paid according to holiday entitlement.

If the sun shines, Joanne says she will also be watching the royal wedding and if the weather remains fine, maybe enjoy a barbecue.

Meanwhile, for others, the big day will be an opportunity to cash in on the festivities.

Holywood-based Ulster Weavers has produced two commemorative tea towels, which are priced at £8.50.

The contemporary design features black taxis, flowers and bright colours, while the more traditional towel is sage green and gold.

The special occasion will also be marked by a limited edition Belleek Pottery Royal Wedding celebration basket.

And a "Royal Tea" event is being held at Galgorm Resort outside Ballymena next Saturday.

Meanwhile, visitors to the Balmoral Show will be able to tune into live coverage of the most anticipated wedding of the year, live from Windsor, in a specially covered viewing area.

Belfast Telegraph

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