Food shops drop shutters

Closing down

Closing down

The death of the small grocery shop appears to be well advanced in the Dungannon District, with ten shutting down in the past five years.

The town has changed dramatically since the financial crisis began in 2007, with the major casualties including Woolworths, pubs, restaurants, a jewellers and several clothes and shoe shops.

Vacancy rates have increased by 16 percent and there has been a proliferation of charity shops and discount stores.

However, the decline appears to be most marked for small grocery shops, who have had to compete with the price wars launched by major chain supermarkets.

The latest figures released by the Northern Ireland Assembly show that there has been a net 15 percent decline in the number of such shops in the district, down from 65 in 2008 to 55 this year.

Conversely, over the same period, the town has seen an increase in the number of grocery shops selling international foods.

UUP Councillor Walter Cuddy, who runs a shop himself, criticised the government for not doing enough to support small businesses and retailers in the district.

“We at Dungannon Council have worked hard to keep rate rises at zero, since we understand the overheads are crippling many small shops.

“We want to encourage the next generation of retailers to take on these businesses and keep their towns and villages vibrant. Unfortunately, the amount of paperwork and legislation can be overwhelming for smaller shops and I really feel for villages like Castlecaulfield, Moy and Benburb, which are losing police stations, libraries and their small shops, which are vital focal points for their communities.

“The tradition of the small local grocer should be kept alive, and the larger retail companies should be reined in and discouraged from taking over. The government should squeeze them with taxes and encourage the next generation of retailers to set up business,

“Although we have lost many local shops we have also seen an increase in shops selling foreign food. There are at least half a dozen in the town now, catering to the large migrant communities, which I think is good for everyone. These new shops have brought some much needed variety to the town, and their produce has more flavour and interest than the standard range of processed foods sold by the big chains.”




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