Enniskillen’s High Street revival is down to the town’s natural entrepreneurial spirit.
That’s the view from Noelle McAloon of the Enniskillen Business Improvement District (BID).
Businesses have bounced back from the Covid lockdown period while new ones have sprung up to add to the colour and vibrancy of the town.
Helped by BID’s Enniskillen Gift Card programme that has raised £500,000 with all money being ploughed back into the town’s businesses, Enniskillen’s shopping hearbeat is going along at a healthy rate.
“Our High Street continues to change,” says Noelle McAloon of BID. “Enniskillen is maybe, with these new entrepreneurs, reversing the trend that’s elsewhere.
“These new businesses that we’ve seen opening in recent months, coupled with the £500,000 raised by sales of the Gift Cards – which can only be used in Enniskillen businesses – shows that there is that level of positivity.
“We at BID would be there to offer support to any new business. We can help them with digital marketing, setting up a website, help them with the cost of a new sign.
“We’re not going ‘oh look at us, we are flying here’, because you can see that there are still vacant units about the town.
“However, there is investment in the town. You will have noticed there is a lot of work on the old Costcutter building, the old Dorothy Perkins building has been purchased as has the old Eason’s building.
“So over the next six months, we’re going to see that investment and hopefully see those larger units come to life. I’m not saying everything is rosey but there is positivity in and amongst the difficult times that we are seeing.
“Fermanagh has always had a high level of entrepreneurial start-up businesses.
Where this area would have lower figures would be growth.
“I think with the growth figures there is that element of confidence and investment that’s needed to make your business grow.
“There’s probably fewer people going through with growing their businesses – why that is, I’m not sure. I suppose people are content with the business that they have started – and there’s nothing wrong with that because all of those people add to the economy.”
However, the town’s entrepreneurial spirit could face a severe test this winter as the rising costs of electricity and gas look set to soar and affect running costs.
“There are concerns about rising costs regarding electricity and gas,” added McAloon. “We will of course be looking to government to see what support they are going to come up with.
“Costs rise and lower with any business and any utility. But these costs right now are so significant. A lot of businesses do prepare in advance to absorb any rise in costs – but only to a certain extent.
“The level of increases that we are seeing are so much that they provide great concern. While there is positivity now about the High Street, we go with caution because we don’t know what the situation will look like in 2023.
“I know that during Covid, the VAT rate was reduced for hospitality businesses and that helped tremendously. I know that there is lobbying for the government to consider that again.”
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