Deep freeze to put traders out of business

The festive white out will force Derry retailers out of business, a traders spokesman has warned.

It's estimated that millions of pounds have been wiped off Christmas till takings in the city with many shoppers deciding not to brave the hazardous driving and walking conditions.

"Make no mistake, there will be closures in the New Year as a result of the lack of trade due to the bad weather," Martin McCrossan of Derry City Centre Traders Forum told the 'Journal' yesterday.

He said the first bout of arctic conditions at the beginning of December had stunned local retailers but the current white out was a "total disaster" for local businesses.

"Unfortunately some are never going to recover from this. For many a miracle is needed now and that's far from people's minds as the forecast for the rest of the week isn't good."

In particular Derry has not enjoyed the annual high influx in cross border shoppers from Donegal and other areas of the country. The hospitality sector has also lost out with many restaurants enduring cancellations for Christmas parties and pubs experiencing slow trade as revellers remain at home.

Brendan Duddy Jnr, of Duddy Group - which operates a wide range of businesses in the city - said all traders in Derry are dependent on brisk Christmas trade.

"All retail trade has been badly affected by the weather, people in the city can't even get to the shops let alone people from places like Donegal and Strabane."

Mr Duddy added that it was "too early at this stage to say just how bad the situation is." But he added: "A lot of businesses are going to have to work out a way through this with their suppliers to help get them through the next period of time."

However, Mr Duddy believes that many business can "come out the other side" by working together and with adequate assistance from those responsible for making routes safer for motorists and pavements safer for pedestrians.

Meanwhile, the city centre's shopping complexes - while experiencing slow trade on Friday - enjoyed brisk businesses over the weekend.

Richmond Centre Manager Fergal Rafferty said: "Shopping was affected last weekend on Friday evening when the largest snowfalls occurred and trading was less than expected.

"However on Saturday and Sunday with all the main routes into the city clear and with the main car parks in the city centre open Christmas shopping resumed."

Mr Rafferty said that the centre did not suffer a slump to the same extent as high street stores "due to the warm covered shopping mall which makes it much more pleasant for shoppers to move around".

He added: "Shoppers are quite resilient and tend to shop around events like weather conditions and this seems to have happened on this occasion. As this was the last Christmas shopping weekend, shoppers realised that they had to make the effort. And with late night trading until 10pm each night until Thursday we are anticipating a high volume of shoppers."

Mr Rafferty said he is also expecting brisk trade during the January sales which are to be launched at the Richmond Centre on St Stephen's Day.