Cookstown has one of the lowest rates for vacant commercial space in Northern Ireland.
Cookstown has one of the lowest rates for vacant commercial space in Northern Ireland.

BUSINESS is booming for Cookstown’s retail sector which is expanding at the fastest rate in Northern Ireland.

Local shops have bucked the national trend by increasing in number from 165 in 2009 to 175 last year.

It was the largest increase in Northern Ireland, with only Carrickfergus, Craigavon and Limavady also showing growth but at a lesser rate of five units over the two year period.

In fact Cookstown and Magherafelt’s top-performing businesses have overcome uncertainty in the economy by boasting a combined revenue in excess of £350million last year.

Acccordiing to VAT and tax figures released by the Department of Finance, a total of 35 companies in the Cookstown District had a turnover of more than £5m last year.

The figures were replicated in the Magherafelt district, which also had 35 businesses returning that level of revenue.

However, the figures have been put in perspective by the fact that the combined total matched the financial output of Dungannon District, which was revealed as the largest for any district council west of the Bann.

There was also good news for Cookstown in the wholesale and information and communications sectors.

As well as boasting an increase in the number of shops, there was a similar rise in the wholesale sector which increased from 90 to 95 companies.

The figures were the opposite of what is happening in the Dungannon District, which like most of Northern Ireland experienced a decline in the retail sector.

In addition, Cookstown’s information and communications sector doubled in size over the past two years, rising from 10 to 20 companies.

The figures show that Magherafelt district currently has 2,545 successful businesses ranging from food and agricultural companies, to construction, retail, manufacturing, property and transport, while Cookstown district has 2,270.

However, overall, the figures show a sharp decline in the number of trading companies in each district over the past two years.

Cookstown experienced a fall of 70 companies from 2340 in 2009, while Magherafelt fared marginally better with a drop of 65 from 2,610 in 2009.

In all, Magherafelt is doing better in terms of the number of small companies generating revenue, while Cookstown has more companies with turnover in excess of £500,000.

The figures contain warning signs for parts of the local economy vulnerable to the collapsed housing market.

Construction companies have been hit hardest with 410 now operating in the Cookstown district, a drop of 50 from 460 in 2009.

Manufacturing in the Cookstown district has also declined from 190 companies trading in 2009 to 175 in 2011.

On the transport front, the picture was also subdued with 10 less companies filing tax and VAT returns.

Almost a third of local businesses belong to the agricultural sector, which was unchanged, making it the largest sector in the Cookstown District, followed by construction and then manufacturing.