THERE will soon be another empty retail unit in Larne town centre, after it was announced that all Birthdays stores across the UK would be closing in the coming weeks.
Clinton’s Cards Ltd – the biggest card retailer in the country – went into administration earlier this month. The company runs 16 Birthdays stores across the Province.
And administrators Zolfo Cooper said this week that it has “regrettably” decided to close about 350 stores of its total of 784 across the UK, including the entire Birthdays chain.
The closure will mean that six staff at the Birthdays store on Larne Main Street will lose their jobs, but it is not yet known when the shop will pull down its shutters for the final time.
John Shannon, chairman of Larne Traders’ Forum, said the closure would be “another blow” for the town centre and the local economy.
“The closure of any local business is to be regretted, particularly in terms of the staff who are now going to be out of work,” he told the Larne Times.
“It is always sad to see any retailer leave the town, as it will mean less choice for local consumers and less people coming in to the town.
“Also, an empty retail unit in the centre of town could have an unwelcome knock-on effect for other businesses.”
Mr Shannon said that while it was difficult to put a positive spin on the announcement, he was hopeful that the premises would not remain empty for long.
“The shop is in a fairly prime location, so hopefully another retailer will come in as soon as possible to fill the gap.
“While Birthdays is the latest in a string of casualties in Larne as a result of the economic downturn, it must be remembered that this sort of thing is happening across the UK; it is a sign of the times unfortunately.
“But while many town centres across the country are dying, Larne remains in a relatively healthy and strong position. Part of Main Street has been given a welcome boost recently thanks to a £150,000 DSD restoration project, and the refurbishment of the town hall is nearing completion. All this will create a better shopping environment and will hopefully attract new investors to the town,” Mr Shannon concluded.