‘We are not closing’, says Woodsides’ boss

A PROMINENT Larne businessman has urged local residents to stop spreading “unfounded and dangerous rumours” about the future of a number of town centre shops.

Mervyn McConkey, managing director of long-established Main Street department store Woodsides, told the Times he had received numerous enquiries from members of the public regarding his business, with some people claiming they had heard the shop would soon be closing.

Last year, the shutters came down for the final time at Woodsides stores in Ballyclare, Ballymena and Bangor.

But Mr McConkey, who is a long-serving member of the local traders’ forum, has moved to allay fears that the same fate will befall the Larne store, which has been a presence in the town for the past 44 years.

His message to shoppers was a resounding: “Don’t worry, we are not going anywhere.”

The Larne man added: “I can categorically say that, despite the rumour mill, Woodsides in Larne is not closing down.

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“I have had people coming up to me in the street over the past couple of months and asking me if it was true that the shop was closing and that staff have been given redundancy notice, but I do not know where this information is coming from.”

Mr McConkey has warned that such speculation is having a damaging effect on his business and others in the town, and he has appealed to Larne shoppers to put a stop to the rumour mill and support local traders.

“Rumours like this are detrimental to businesses and can be very damaging. For example, some people did not want to buy gift cards here at Christmas because they were afraid the shop would close and they would be worthless.

“Local traders are trying their best to promote their businesses in these tough economic times, but doom and gloom-mongering like this is not helping the situation,” he added.

But rather than preparing to lay off staff and pull the shutters down at Woodsides, Mr McConkey said he is getting ready to revamp and modernise certain aspects of the shop.

“We are planning to invest more money in the shop and install a new scanning system for our tills. Why would we do that if we were preparing to close down?

“Woodsides in Larne has been a family-run shop for the past 36 years. My father ran it before me and I hope to some day pass the business on to my children,” Mr McConkey concluded.