Down News conducted a short vox pop of several Downpatrick traders in Market Street who were not impacted by the flood directly.
Following on from the spread sheet Down News already competed for the flood zone victims, I re-engaged with some businesses to see what their thoughts were on the current trading position within Downpatrick writes Jim Masson.
It is not possible for me to complete a database of all traders in the town. I would have thought that would already have been addressed, however, I appreciate that it is always a moving feast and would need updated constantly.
The spreadsheet was basically a quantitative study of the flood zone and it highlighted the immediate problems of business closures related directly to the flooding. It has been updated and if any business in the flood zone wishes to add or change their details then I’m happy to add the changes to it. Just message me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 078555454873 or PM me on Down News Facebook page.
This vox pop below is basically a small qualitative survey of a few of the business traders not in the flood zone.
Liam Smyth from Minders Menswear said: “Footfall is certainly a huge factor here. We have noticed a huge slump in trade. We are open seven days a week up until Christmas 9-5pm Monday to Saturday and 1-5pm on a Sunday.
“Our hearts go out to all those businesses who suffered from the flood which came at a time when most traders were gearing up for Christmas. Some have been just devastated.
“Downpatrick just seems like a forgotten town. We must dispel the uncertainty. Many shops are back up and running and open for business.
“Everyone needs to be aware of this and SHOP LOCAL this Christmas and after to remove the uncertainty about the trading capacity of our County town.
“Market Street was closed for a few days to deal with the flood and its consequences, but the drop in trade through the town is significant and something needs to be done to lift this situation up before Christmas to give some of the traders a chance to survive into the new year.
“If local people don’t get behind their shops, many of whom have been there for generations, some could be lost forever.
“We are running a big pre-Christmas sale with massive reductions. ‘Tell the world’ we are open for business.”
Firstly I called into Rebecca’s Beauty Room and chatted to Rebecca Galea, owner. She said: “Many small businesses outside the flood zone need help urgently. There has been a very significant drop in footfall in Downpatrick.
“Hopefully this will only be temporary, but many are struggling.
‘We didn’t qualify for the £7,500 flood grant nor can we get rates relief.
“This is quite a serious situation for us and five people could be out of a job. A couple of those are self-employed beauticians who work through the business.
“We’d like to see more what the politicians are trying to help us. A couple have called in but now we just feel so ignored and left to get on with it ourselves.
“We need help now, before it is too late.”
Siobhan King of Pricewise (Superstore Ltd) said: “Every business in the town has been impacted in some way with the flood but you have to stay positive.
“The flood took place a month today and we are focussing on looking after our customers who shop with us.
“I do advertise on Facebook and that helps a bit. We just have to get on with things and do our best.
“But we’d welcome any support that is out there.
“We see that local people are supporting us and other businesses. We work a lot with the elderly and with care homes.
“But you’ve got to stay positive, but that’s hard sometimes when the pressure build up.”
Nostalgia, which sells ladies clothes and accessories, owned by Noeleen Johnston too has been affected by the drop in footfall in Downpatrick.
Noeleen said: “We were closed for a week and a half due to Market Street being flooded. The NI Fire and Rescue Service were there for a couple of days pumping awat the flood water then workmen descended on the town centre emptying out the flooded shops.
“Pedestrians could not access Market Street once it was drained due to the clear up operation.
“In my premises I have a high rates bill and need to keep trading like other businesses in the town centre.
“Alliance, SDLP and Sinn Féin councillors have called in but there is nothing financially in place to help businesses such as mine. We were not in the flood zone.
“Many people came to Downpatrick to visit ASDA and shopped also on the main streets in the town. I know council is trying to help ASDA re-open probably on a different site. But that could take months.
“At the moment I am getting by. I have one part-time worker who comes in two days a week. But the footfall needs to increase in the town to help all the businesses.
“We are open from 10-5 Monday to Saturday and 1-5 on Sundays through December.”
Ernie Hanlon of Hanlon’s food store sells quality fruit and vegetables, a selection of cheeses to die for, a fresh fish counter, a quality sandwich bar and an assortment of dried foods, pastas and pulses etc.
He said: “We are a long established Downpatrick business while we appreciate the hardships the flood has brought you have to stay positive.
“There are still a few shops closed and I hope they get up and running soon. Local traders are doing their best to send out positive vibes for the town.
“ASDA is closed and that has impacted a lot on the town and that probably is a major reason for the drop in footfall.
“We are open for business with our normal shopping hours. Yes footfall is down in the town, but we have to do what we can and look after our customers.”
Down News ended the short vox pop by talking to one outlet in Market Street who did not want to be named.
The manager said: “We have noticed a massive drop in footfall and at nights Market Street is like a ghost town.
“On evenings before the flood our trade was steady but last night for example, I had three customers after it got dark.
“We will have to look at this in the longer term, but it could be that it is not viable for us to trade from here from January. Maybe we could move premises but certainly not to within the flood zone.
“And today we just heard that another big chain shop is likely to be closing its doors early in the new year. It’s all quite scary at the moment. Let’s hope things pick up soon.”
So, in conclusion, this snapshop shows both positives and negatives around the situation the Downpatrick traders face.
On the negative side, a number of businesses are reporting facing significant or possibly terminal difficulties, and need to continue paying their monthly bills and paying staff wages.
They are concerned about the inadequacy of the level of help for these impacted businesses. And they are concerned about losing customers in the longer-term if trading patterns change.
They appreciate that politicians may be beavering away behind the scenes trying to turn round this difficult situation, but would welcome too a more visible show of support.
On the positive side, there are businesses who are surviving the flood hardship better than others, but who also recognise the drop in trade footfall in Downpatrick but who are trying to stay on top of the pressures.
Some businesses managed to get opened up early soon after the flood.
These businesses may be financially and organisationally in a better place to weather the storm, but are equally affected.
These are two sides of the same coin.
Down News will further investigate what help is out there for the Downpatrick traders and what help is needed. If any news breaks on this I will report on it asap.
As yet Down News has not been able to get beyond the Ballydugan Road to report on a wider level of flooding across South Down and appreciates other areas in Down including Newry have been severely affected by the floods.
And these businesses too may share similar trials having also faced terrible flooding.
Check out some flood-related articles below on Down News!!
And go to Down News Facebook photo album page to see folders of photos of the flood in Downpatrick.
View folders of Down News photos on the Downpatrick Flood at: