Cookstown breaks even as slump bites

COOKSTOWN ‘just about broke even’ during one of the most challenging Christmas periods on record.

And the hope is that local traders will be able to weather the economic storm and remain in business by next Christmas, according the local Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber President Brian Jordan said there had been a mixed response from traders with some reporting increased footfall and profits while others struggled.

“Our hope is that those who were trading at Christmas will remain in business next Christmas,” said Mr Jordan who predicted that 2012 will be a particularly tough year in the retail sector.

“There were no records broken this Christmas. We will be lucky to have the same retailers trading in Cookstown this time next year,” he said.

And, despite last year’s snowy Christmas and icy streets which had traders complaining of lack of custom, Mr Jordan said traders had blamed the mild weather over Christmas saying that locals had been able to travel out of town to shop.

He added that the huge marketing budget of Belfast had adverse affects on many provincial towns luring local people to the city for shopping instead of buying locally.

“The campaign to attract people to Belfast was intense. Provincial towns can’t cope with that. The marketing spend of the city is huge.

“These are challenging times. We have done well to keep the town vibrant. Some traders said Christmas was good and others said it was bad,” he said.

“Last year the bad weather kept people in the town, They shopped locally.

“This year is going to be the most challenging of years so far. It is going to be a struggle for people to survive. The greatest test will be the next few months.

“We would encourage people to shop locally. It is false economy driving to Belfast and it is more cost effective to shop locally. They should do their bread and butter spending in Cookstown,” he said.

Mr Jordan said he hoped traders could hold out for another year as when the building starts in 2013 on the new police training academy at Desertcreat, this could reinvigorate the local economy.