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Strabane businesses collaborate to overcome Covid challenges​

03 September 2021
A group of Strabane businesses have joined forces to successfully apply for a special £25,000 grant aimed at supporting local businesses as they continue on the road to recovery after the Covid lockdown.
The businesses are all based in the Pavilion Retail Park, and include Argento, Elite Pizzas (Dominos) GBC Ireland Ltd, Specsavers, La Moda, Caffe Fresco and Gallagher's Butcher & Deli (Galabake)
 The Covid Recovery Grant is available through Council's Covid Recovery and Revitalisation Scheme which is funded by the Department for Communities, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Infrastructure. The grant funded the installation of a 72 metre long and 2-metre-wide glazed canopy over ground level shop fronts to enhance the shopping experience for customers visiting the area.
 This will help to counter some of the negative impacts that the pandemic has had on local businesses which have seen a reduction in footfall over the past ten months, and significant costs having to be incurred by local business owners.
 Speaking on behalf of the consortium, William Mealiff from GBC Ireland, said: "This has been an extremely challenging time for businesses in the Strabane area. Even when premises could reopen the restrictions in travel further impacted on customer numbers in border areas where we have a significant number of visitors from ROI. A number of our retailers also stock seasonal goods which has meant that stock bought prior to lockdown could not be sold leading to a decline in sales and excess stock.
 "As we look now towards recovery we must put in place measures to ensure we can restore customer confidence and attract footfall once more to the retail park. With social distancing and safer approaches to shopping now the priority, we wanted to ensure that any customers queueing to access retail premises would have suitable protection from the weather. The Covid Recovery grant has provided a canopy and seating to enhance the shopping experience at the retail park and encourage people to once again come out and support their local businesses."
 Council's Head of Business, Kevin O'Connor, said the grant would help businesses at the park reach their target footfall level. "The project seeks to increase footfall levels to at least 70% of what they were pre-Covid," he explained. "This is a challenge given the numbers of people who turned to online shopping during the pandemic and who need some incentive to return to local shops.
 "This collaborative project will certainly improve the local shopping environment and go some way towards achieving this. I want to acknowledge the significant resources that are being channelled into the Covid Recovery and Revitalisation scheme by the various departments supporting Council in its work to assist the local business community. Together we are finding new and innovative ways to create safer spaces and the conditions needed for a thriving and successful retail economy."
 As part of the wider Recovery and Revitalisation campaign, Council has also been working with DFC and the Department for Infrastructure to introduce a range of measures including one-way traffic systems, pedestrianised areas, outdoor seating areas and new street trading opportunities to support local businesses and reenergise urban paces.
 Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: "My Department introduced the Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme to support the recovery of our towns and city centres post pandemic.  The Programme has been an excellent example of collaborative working and has supported over 3,000 businesses across the north which has helped them reopen safely.
"I hope that funding business such as those located in the Pavilion retail Park will encourage people back into our towns and city centres to spend time, to support our local businesses and ultimately to help keep our town and city centres alive and prosperous."