Concerns have been raised over the future of the Dunnes Stores branch in Antrim’s Castle Mall.
The retailer, which has been an anchor tenant of the shopping centre since its opening in the 1980s, is understood to be closing on Saturday.
Local councillors Drew Ritchie and Jim Montgomery said they were shocked and disappointed by the pending closure, while South Antrim MLA Adrian Watson described the news as a “hammer blow” to town centre trade.
“Dunnes has been the anchor store in the centre from its opening back in the 80s. Not only does it attract many customers from across the Brough it also help increase trade in other centre stores,” Cllr. Ritchie said.
He added: “I would ask Dunnes to reconsider their decision and develop the capacity of the store in the town.”
Cllr. Montgomery said there needs to be a “regeneration of the area” and called for free parking to be introduced in the town centre.
Similar comments were made by Mr Watson, who called on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to introduce free carparking at the Castle Mall and Railway Street carparks.
“I understand the store is to close on Saturday and my thoughts are with the staff,” Mr Watsons said.
He added: “Dunnes’ departure will leave a huge gap in the Castle Mall.”
Mr Watson added that when he was an Antrim councillor, along with party colleague Drew Ritchie they had lobbied for the introduction of free parking in the town centre.
“That needs to happpen sooner rather than later to help town centre trade,” Mr Watson said.
Due to the Bank Holiday in Ireland, no one was available to speak to at Dunnes Stores head office on Monday.
The Times contacted the Antrim branch, with no one wishing to comment.
Theresa Murray, manager of the Castle Mall, referred all queries to Dunnes Stores.