WITH two shopping days left to Christmas, Larne retailers are hoping they will all be merry and bright.
While local traders are not exactly rocking around the Christmas tree, early fears of a tight Christmas brought on by three years of recession appear to have been unfounded as shoppers loosen the purse strings, determined to enjoy the festive season to the fullest.
Boosted by the Larne Borough Council and Traders’ Forum-led DEAL-ightful Christmas shopping promotion, shops, cafes and restaurants have been busy and with the mild spell forecast to continue over the festive period, it is unlikely that customers will be unable to get to the shops today and tomorrow, unlike last year when business suffered as people were trapped in their homes by the record-breaking freeze.
Larne Traders’ Forum chairman John Shannon said the overall mood was “upbeat” and he urged Larne people to add to the feelgood factor by continuing to shop locally.
“With the vast improvement in the weather, compared with this time last year, there is no reason why sales figures should not go up, with people able to get out and about easily,” he said.
“We are in a recession, but I think that thankfully Larne has escaped the worst of it so far, which is due in large measure to the major employers like F G Wilson and the Port of Larne, and the fact that the employment level in Larne generally is higher than for the rest of the Province.
“It’s not something you want to boast about, but we are very fortunate to be in that position and I would urge people to shop locally and help to support the heart of the town.
“I get annoyed when I hear some Larne people knocking the town centre, because the fact is that you can buy just about anything in Larne and receive great personal service.”
People who come here from other towns on shopping trips tell me they think Larne is a very friendly town with a unique mix of large and small family-run shops.”
Mr Shannon asked why anyone would want to shop elsewhere? “Fuel is expensive and fewer people are getting in the car and driving to Ballymena or Antrim or wherever because of the cost involved. I think that more and more Larne people are starting to appreciate what we have here and want to keep it.”
The forum chairman reckons Larne traders will have seen off the other major source of competition: the internet. He said: “There is no comparison between buying goods locally from friendly and knowledgeable retailers and buying online where you can’t see exactly what you are getting and you have all the hassle of returning it if it isn’t what you thought or it doesn’t fit, never mind the worry about whether it will get here in time for Christmas.”