A council-run renewal programme could help boost business for 15 independent retail firms in the Larne area.
The scheme will target town centre traders in particular following the recent completion of public realm works in the area.
The programme aims to both encourage an innovative approach to business among local independent retailers, and to address the marketing, financial and other practical challenges that are specific to each business.
It also aims to increase sales and maximise profitability for local independent traders.
The initiative, which has a budget of £15,750, was approved at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Economic Growth and Tourism meeting on Monday night. It will now go to full council for ratification.
The project would be managed and co-ordinated by LEDCOM, and delivered between October 2016 and September 2017.
It is proposed that 15 independent retailers participate in the programme on a first come first served basis, with an individual retail health check for each trader. Mentoring support, business improvement plans, and networking events will also form part of the scheme.
A report presented to councillors stated: “In recent years, town centre and village retailers have been particularly affected by the economic downturn, the rise of out-of-town shopping availability and the increase in on-line sales.
“In September 2015, the public realm project commenced in Larne town centre. Although the work has progressed well, there have been inevitable challenges to local traders with reduced footfall due to actual and perceived difficulties in accessing the town centre, in spite of marketing messages to remind shoppers that the town centre is still ‘open for business’.”
The report added that DETI economic statistics for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council showed there are 4,465 VAT registered small businesses in the area.
“78 percent of the businesses are under five employees and 90 percent are under 10 employees,” it continued. “It is within this latter group that independent retailers are likely to be found and it is they who are most likely to need business advice and support.”