Lights go out at T & E Howie

Paul Howie. (0306PG08)
Paul Howie. (0306PG08)

One of Derry’s longest serving independent retailers will close tomorrow after almost 40 years in the city centre.

Paul Howie of T&E Howie Lighting Design says the company can no longer operate amid increasingly tough times for family run and independent businesses.

Five members of staff have been affected by the closure.

“First and foremost we would like to thank our customers, without whom we would not have had 40 years of trading in the city centre,” Mr Howie told the ‘Journal’ this week.

“We are very grateful to them and it has been hugely enjoyable to serve them.”

“But what we have seen in recent times is much less footfall in the town, with people having much less disposable income.

“At the same time, our business costs are always rising.

“The weather in December also meant that what should have been the best month of the year turned out to be the worst.”

Mr Howie says those difficulties are further exacerbated by dissident republican attacks in the city centre.

“Over the past year we have lost five trading days due to bombs, hoaxes and security alerts,” he says.

He says changes in consumer habits, the growth of internet trade and the emergence of out of town retail parks also compound independent retailers difficulties.

When the shutters come down for the final time at the close of business tomorrow it will bring to an end the family’s five decade association with Derry city centre.

The Howie name has come to be synonymous with city centre trade since Paul’s father Ernest opened the Strand Road store in 1973.

The family also ran Scotts of the Diamond, while Ernest further served the business community as President of the Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Howie says he believes even tougher times lie ahead for Derry’s other independent retailers.

“There needs to be more support, from the banks, from the statutory bodies, for independents. Without that support we are looking at a critical time for Derry city centre. It is increasingly difficult to see how the independents can survive.”

Mr Howie says the Lighting Design side of the business will continue to operate despite the closure of the retail outlet. The business can be contacted on 71363042 or via email at paul@howie-lighting.com