Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry has launched a fight back against claims that the town is empty by urging residents and visitors to come out and see for themselves the vibrant network of local businesses the town has to offer.
Joining forces with local media, Ballymena Borough Council and Ballymena Town Centre Development Ltd (BTCD) the Chamber has launched ‘Small Business Saturday’ which will take place on Saturday 7th December.
The initiative, created in America in 2010, encourages people to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities and has the full backing of politicians and local businesses in the town who see its potential to lift the local economy and make it a day to remember.
Rodney Kernohan, speaking on behalf of the Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry explained, “Last year’s US ‘Small Business Saturday’ initiative created an amazing £3.5 billion in sales to small businesses and led to an increase in long-term custom. Now we are not expecting to spend that much in the Ballymena area but I believe this is a great opportunity for all of us to support our local small businesses and our town centre. Contrary to recent reports a quarter of our shops are not empty.
“Yes we’ve had our difficulties like any other town centre but with several new shops and restaurants opening recently and more in the pipeline we believe that Christmas 2013 and 2014 will see major change.
“In early November we had our superb 20% day off which saw people from as far away as Donegal and Scotland visit and check out our fabulous retailers. The pavements were full and more importantly they spent money with some retailers claiming they took as much as two weeks income in one day.
“We’ve so many independent retailers that really add something special from Cameron’s to McKillen’s, and Wallace’s to The Gift Box. We’ve also got some great restaurants. These are all small and local businesses and make us a great shopping town.
“I’m delighted to say that our local media, the Ballymena Times and the Ballymena Guardian, along with Ballymena Borough Council and Ballymena Town Centre Development Ltd (BTCD) are fully behind this campaign and after the recent negative national media coverage it’s time that each and everyone of us made a small difference by shopping locally.”
Ballymena Mayor Cllr Audrey Wales MBE said, “I’m exceptionally proud of Ballymena and as an ex-retailer I believe that we’ve a great town with great shops. Recently I awarded over 60 business owners and employee certificates for completing World Host Customer Service training so a great customer experience welcomes you too.
“I’d appeal to those who are thinking about choosing to shop elsewhere please don’t! Yes I’m biased about this town of my mine but don’t just take my word for it or that of the media’s for that matter, come and see for yourself.”
Rodney Kernohan concluded, “Come and experience the variety and fine quality produce of a family butcher or shop for Christmas gifts at one of our many excellent independent retail stores. Live music at Broadway Bandstand will also be performed courtesy of ‘The Music Rooms’ and their talented students from 2pm to 5pm.”
For more information about Small Business Saturday please visit www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com. You can also follow Ballymena Chamber’s ‘Shop Local’ campaign at www.ballymenachamber.co.uk.