Andrew Irvine, Belfast City Centre Manager, made a significant appeal at a recent Business Breakfast to Town Centres to invest in improving their appearance. He is spot on.
For many retailers and indeed politicians, the effort spent in such improvements is seen as “wasted”. Yet it is far from it. NI, unfortunately, has at least its fair share of grim-looking town centres – small wonder, therefore, that it has more than its fair share of boarded up shops.
As I have said before, it is a nonsense to suggest that town centres are suffering purely and solely (or even primarily) because of out-of-town shopping centres. It is because, in many cases, they are just unpleasant places to spend time.
Think about it: do you go to coffee shops because of the quality of the coffee or the quality of the surroundings?
Yes, no doubt the buns available play a role and perhaps there is even a particular syrup that takes you back to a particular shop more often than others, but by and large it is comfort which will decide it. It is the same with town centres – they need to be attractive, clean, interesting even.
Let there be no doubt, therefore, that upping the appearance of town centres is money well spent by retailers.