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Body blow to High Street as family retailer calls time after 17 years

Desi Quinn closing his shoe business

Desi Quinn closing his shoe business

A combination of high costs; ‘vigilante’ traffic attendants; a lack of political support; and a preference for out of town retail units and shopping centres, has led to the closure of another family run independent Enniskillen retailer.

Desi Quinn Shoes, Church Street, Enniskillen will close its doors after 17 years at the end of the month and it is another sad indictment of the state of our high street. The closure follows hot on the heels of Wesley Elliott menswear, clothing retailer, Too and, previously McIlwaine electrical.

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Dowlers Home Store will also cease their Enniskillen operations this month, as well as cobbler Alan Jones. He is re-locating to Ballinamallard.

Speaking to the Herald Desi explained he decided to make the big move two weeks ago.

“I believe it is the right decision. It was a sad decision after 17 years but for me I don’t see a long-term future in trading in Enniskillen. I’m carrying a lot of stock and every second customer that comes into the shop feels under pressure, as they’re afraid of getting parking tickets.  Or another fine example of stupidity was the bank holiday weekend, when the decision to close the town off was taken without informing traders and thus denying retailers the opportunity on a bank holiday to do business in hard trading times.”

For Desi the business was no longer sustainable as he faced huge expenses. Each month Desi had to fork out substantial five figure costs for rates and four figures for rent and by his own admission: “In this day and age that just doesn’t work.”

“I’m a private retailer; I’m not a company, so everything falls on my shoulders to sort out. It is a big challenge to sort out staff, companies and everything else, but I’m delighted I made the decision.

“I believe I am making a stand for the town, I’ve gone to all the meetings, I’ve seen all the obstacles put in front of us, and I firmly believe how politicians have bowed to big businesses and the corporate companies to actually allow an extension onto a shopping centre at this time.

“What’s it going to do to Enniskillen as we all know, especially the town centre which they fail to even advertise on the way into town on its arterial routes?

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“Is that not putting the two fingers up to the town and closing it down even more?”

“If you go to visit a town anywhere in Ireland, England, Wales, you go and see what the town and the town centre is like, you don’t go and see what a shopping centre is like.

“You come to see the heritage. It’s a destination and in the next number of years unless somebody bites the bullet, it will be one of trinket shops, charity shops and painted windows. You need a strong core of good business, independent business and something different to offer, and that’s being annihilated.”

While there are various contributing factors to the closure, he lays much of the blame at the feet of traffic wardens, who he feels have become like ‘vigilantes’, discouraging people from shopping in the town centre and making them conscious of incurring a £45-£90 fine.

“I was at Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena on Wednesday and a machine gave me a ticket and I parked my car.
“I was in shops, meeting people and I went out for a meal. I not only shopped, I socialised and lifted my car at 8pm paid my £4 whatever it was and never once worried about my car.

“You certainly can’t shop in comfort when you have traffic wardens who are hounding the people, in fact no better than “vigilantes”, hounding the people that we want to shop.”

If things carry on as they are, there may not be a high street left in 20 years according to Desi, but he stressed it is not beyond saving.

“This can be sorted; this town can be saved if things like parking, rates, rents all those things are improved.
“Like it or not, Fermanagh needs a good town, in fact it needs every town and village to be good.

“We can’t change a lot of what has been done, but if we don’t regenerate what we have in this county in a style reflecting the heritage and culture of the area, then all you’re going to have is pictured walls masquerading as businesses.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA