A leading figure in Carrickfergus Town Centre Partnership is warning of more empty units without greater support for the local high street.
Kevin Wilson, manager of Age NI’s shop on West Street, is encouraging people to back independent businesses and charities.
Mr Wilson, who’s also the vice chair of Carrickfergus Town Centre Partnership, said: “I’ve lived and worked in Carrickfergus all my life. I remember when I was growing up, the high street was bustling, and there was two-way traffic in West Street. We had a ‘Back Carrick Week’ every year that drew crowds into the town.
“Since online shopping, the way in which people shop has definitely changed, and we’ve noticed a decline in the number of people shopping in Carrick town centre. Unfortunately, like a lot town centres these days, you’ll see more empty units, and it’s such a shame.
“There is good work happening in local councils, with various grants available to support and encourage local businesses as well as events to encourage Carrickfergus residents to make better use of their town centre. But I think there’s more that we could all do to highlight what Carrickfergus has to offer, and why people should visit, shop and support it.”
Age NI has had a shop in the town centre for over 20 years. Speaking about its role in the local community, Mr Wilson added: “As well as helping to raise much needed funds for the charity, for some people we may also the only person they get to talk to that day. We once had a customer who told us that coming in to the Age NI shop wasn’t so much about shopping but more like visiting a friend. We’re much more than a charity shop in that sense.
“For me it’s all about supporting local businesses. The more people, the more potential for new business – the more businesses, the more people. By working together, I feel confident we can regenerate and revitalise Carrick.”