Retail scheme to be rolled out by Easter

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A retail initiative could be rolled out across Mid and East Antrim by Easter next year following its successful debut in Carrickfergus.

The Carnegie Trust TestTown project saw six local entrepreneurs set up a ‘pop-up’ shop in the town centre.

The scheme, which ran from August 27-31 at the former ‘Suit’ premises in Joymount, offered businesses the opportunity to ‘test trade’ their products, with the chance to win a £10k investment in their business.

MEA Borough Council is examining the possibility of establishing the scheme in high footfall areas of Carrick, Larne, and Ballymena.

In a report presented at Monday night’s meeting of the Economic Growth and Development Committee, members were told of an anticipated Easter 2016 start date.

An initial aim to roll out the scheme for Christmas 2015 was not feasible due to “time constraints”.

Addressing the impact on existing businesses, the report noted: “Although Carrickfergus TestTown was a success, there were a few negative comments received from local traders as they felt offering free rent and rates was unfair to those that were in existing business and incurring those costs.”

Other issues such as unit availability and recruitment of entrepreneurs would also be factors as well as competing with the private sector.

“A Carrickfergus trader has recently purchased premises with the view of offering retail space to entrepreneurs,” the report added.

Members agreed to a target of Easter 2016 for the project. A fully-costed proposal will be returned to a future meeting of the committee.

Meanwhile, the winning enterprise from Carrick will be announced in the coming weeks.