RECENT initiatives by Magherafelt District Council helped boost trade in the run-up to Christmas, according to local businesses.
And while the Christmas Markets are cited to have generated a healthy buzz and promoted a “feel good factor,” the real money-spinner for traders was the council’s Never Better Day (which translates into an entire day of free parking) in Magherafelt.
On welcoming the schemes, Paul Cuddy of Cuddy’s department store described Christmas trade as “an absolute cracker.” He said: “We have had to work harder to achieve this and to hold more in-store promotions, but it is paying off for us.”
He added that reduced parking fees were a contributory factory to healthy sales figures. “Parking is an issue in the town and anything that the council does to alleviate this is to be welcomed,” said Paul. “We noticed the positive impact of the free parking day, when we welcomed greater numbers of customers to the store.”
Paul Stewart of J C Stewarts supermarket also praised the local council for the initiatives. He said: “Magherafelt is a brilliant shopping town. The council’s schemes helped to promote it, to bring people into Magherafelt and to generate a buzz.”
Trade figures at J C’s were good, he said, with many people placing orders in advance of the Christmas closure. “We were very happy,” continued Paul. “We supply a lot of local produce, and our chickens and turkeys are locally bred. We found that is what our customers want for their special occasions.”
Meanwhile, Magherafelt Chamber of Commerce President Ian Henry pointed out that although trade over the Christmas period was described as “buoyant” for some, the stark reality is that a number of shops and restaurants had closed recently.
“Local trade has been boosted by initiatives such as the Never Better Day and Christmas markets, but more needs to be done,” he said.
“Figures show that more people came to the town on the free parking day, but this issue needs to be considered in the longer term - Cookstown is our nearest shopping rival and it has free parking all year round. This immediately puts us at a disadvantage.”
In light of recent shop closures, Mr Henry added that the Chamber is calling for business rates to be seriously reviewed to minimise “the negative impact on traders.”