Limavady’s economy suffered another blow this week with the sudden news that family owned business hanna & browne was in administration.
The shutters were pulled on the Main Street shop on Wednesday, placing at least half a dozen jobs in jeopardy.
Stunned shoppers stopped to read the notice from the administrators taped to the shutters, with fully stocked shelves visible inside.
One man said: “I just think it’s so sad for the people who work here. It must be a very worrying time for them.“It’s not good for the town, in general. You just think ‘what’s next?’ What will we be left with? Since Seagate, out at Aghanloo, and the other factories shut up shop, it’s just been one closure after another.”
Roe Valley Chamber President David Brewster said it was “fast approaching the point of no return in commercial life in Limavady”.
“It seems nobody is prepared to treat Limavady as a special case and it’s time we had an urgent meeting with stakeholders in the economy to map a way forward and demand targeted assistance for the borough,” said Mr. Brewster.
Limavady Mayor Gerry Mullan said it was another serious loss to the town, but he hoped a rescue package could be delivered and the jobs saved. Colr. Mullan said the news brought home the urgent need for an economic task force for the area, which he called for in the wake of the 30 recent job losses at McCloskey & O’Kane.
“As a Council, unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal we can do. I have asked that a task force for the Limavady district be set up and I will re-iterate that call made initially by MLA John Dallat,” said Colr. Mullan.
“Sadly, I don’t think we have seen the end of it and I think there will be other businesses closing, which is exactly why we need a task force. We cannot wait until we get to the stage where Limavady is a ghost town. We have a lot of smaller, independent businesses that are working hard to stay afloat but some of them are hanging on by their fingertips, desperate. And when we get news like this about hanna & browne it doesn’t help.”
The shutters were pulled down on hanna & browne branches in Fountain Street in Belfast, in Bangor, Lisburn, Newtownards and Limavady, and staff were sent home.
It is unclear how many staff are affected and the administrator was not available for comment yesterday. It is thought many customers could be affected by the closures, including couples with wedding lists held in the stores.