‘Point shoppers to unique trading area’

By Scott Jamison

Traders on one of South Belfast’s premier shopping avenues have called on authorities to help them gain more custom by installing special signs designating it as a tourist attraction.

Uel Weir, owner of Paperclip Architects on the Lisburn Road, said special brown tourist signs around Belfast and on nearby stretches of motorway would help direct shoppers to the road, which has seen several independent shops there close lately.

However, Uel said that when traders approached Belfast City Council last month with the idea they were told the council wouldn’t be supporting it.

“We knew the council had designated the Lisburn Road as a tourist area, so it seemed obvious they would support us and help get a groundswell of backing before we took it to the tourist board and Department for Social Development, who are the ones who actually erect the signs.

“It’s not like we’re asking for anything major, we didn’t go with a begging bowl. But when we made the approach to the council, we were told they were already trying to promote and encourage people onto the Lisburn Road in other ways such as festivals, maps being available at the Welcome Centre and being included in a good shopping guide.”

Uel said it was vital the road received the help provided by the signs.

“Put simply, retail works by people coming to you. But the thing is, unless you know where the Lisburn Road is, you can’t find it. The likes of the Outlet Centre in Banbridge is doing the same thing as us, although we’re as good and maybe better due to our variety, but we need that support in promotion.

“People come from all over to Belfast and one of the things they do is go shopping. So where better than here – we don’t have the string of multinationals, we have unique stuff and when people spend here, it’s for the good of everyone.”

He said he knew that potential spenders had already been frustrated in their attempts to get to the Lisburn Road recently.

“A few weeks ago I was speaking to the manager of an antiques shop who said she had served two ladies who had driven up from Dublin specifically to shop on the Lisburn Road.

“I thought that was brilliant but the problem was they didn’t get here until 4pm because they had spent half the day driving about Belfast and couldn’t see any signs for the Lisburn Road.

“So because there are no tourist signs, they ended up only spending half the money they should have and we all end up the poorer for it.”

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said the issue of tourist signs had been discussed at its development committee meeting last week and the council’s policy was currently being reviewed.

“We are seeing what additional facilities we can provide, particularly for areas such as the Lisburn Road, and a more detailed report is being prepared.”

 

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