Traders are increasingly opting to occupy empty premises on Larne’s Main Street in preference to the outlying retail thoroughfares.
The findings reflect a report by property advisory company Lisney, which states that “in provincial towns the market for prime retail accommodation appears to have stabilised and is improving, although demand and occupancy in the secondary pitches has fallen.”
Larne Town Development Manager Hazel Bell told the Times that vacancy rates in Larne’s prime retail locations had fallen over the past year.
“Prime retail locations are performing well (16 per cent vacancies compared to 18 per cent in January 2015),” she said.
“The secondary areas have higher vacancy rates and these have increased over the past year (30 per cent compared to 26 per cent in January 2015). “This is a similar pattern to other towns and cities across Northern Ireland.”
Mrs Bell described the town centre’s total vacancy rate as “largely consistent over the past year.”
The current vacancy level throughout the commercial core is 22 per cent compared to 21 per cent this time last year.
Since July 2015, five new businesses have opened in the town centre, four businesses have transferred to larger premises, one vacant unit has been bought for business expansion and another has been agreed for let.
“Owners of vacant sites and premises are considering investment to make further quality units available in the town centre,” Mrs Bell continued.
“This is an encouraging sign for Larne town centre which should further benefit from the completion during 2016 of town centre utility upgrades and public realm works.”
Animal charity shop Four Legged Friends opened at the former British Heart Foundation premises on Main Street last Saturday.
Tricia Moore, sister of proprietor Roberta Weir, said that the shop had relocated from Ballyclare to Larne as there is a good level of trade in Larne town centre.
“In Ballyclare they are letting out-of-town stores set up, that’s not happening so much in Larne,” said Tricia.
“More people walk past here in ten minutes than in two weeks in Ballyclare.”
However, a spokesperson for BMK pet supplies, which recently relocated from Point Street to the corner of Dunluce Street and Lower Cross Street, said that she believes the council needs to invest more in secondary streets.
“This has been a good move for us as we are bordering three streets,” she said.
“However, since we came here the roofs have been blown off on Dunluce Street, the lighting is atrocious and the road was closed with the public realm scheme”.
“The council is not doing enough to encourage people into the back streets.
“Main Street gets more help, we get nothing.
“The public realm work won’t make a difference to us,” she concluded.