Despite challenging trading conditions throughout 2021, Ballymena has had plenty to celebrate, and it’s been buzzing with positivity and community spirit. That optimism looks set to continue as the festive season gets underway as local businesses come together to celebrate recent successes and announce exciting future plans.
This month saw the town come alive with early festive cheer and a real buzz, not seen since pre-pandemic, as Northern Ireland’s favourite shopping town staged its much-anticipated Biggest Ballymena Discount Day – which saw a massive 50% increase in sales compared to the 2019 event.
Shoppers from across Northern Ireland descended on Ballymena to peruse the many Christmas gifts, special offers, delicious food and drinks and the many discounts to be had, spread across over 80 shops and businesses who took part in the annual day.
Many retailers were delighted to see customers flooding back through their doors to spend their High Street Voucher Cards and snap up early Christmas bargains.
Stephen Reynolds from Ballymena Means BID said: “What started out as a small initiative between a few shops on Church Street a few years back, has grown into one of the busiest days of the year in the town.
“This year not only were sales fantastic, but footfall in the town on the day was up 11.4% on the 2019 Discount Day, and up 111% from the previous Thursday which was also half term.
“These figures show the importance of making a concerted effort to attract customers into Ballymena to avail of our hospitality and discounts. When you get positive feedback in terms of numbers and how much everyone enjoyed Biggest Ballymena Discount Day, it makes all the hard work and effort worthwhile. We are building on our success year on year as word spreads about how fantastic this special shopping day in the town is.
“We thank everyone who has supported our local business community during this difficult time. We also hope that shoppers will return to support our independent retailers and hospitality, our services and our visitor attractions throughout the rest of the year.”
Richard McLoughlin of Wyse Byse said: “Biggest Ballymena Discount Day was just fantastic. Shoppers and staff alike were commenting there was a great atmosphere around the whole town. These initiatives are brilliant for lifting peoples’ spirits and highlighting all that Ballymena has to offer.”
While Sonya, from Robin Adair Jewellers, was also keen to praise the event. “There was a lovely buzz about the town with a steady footfall right up to 9pm. It was evident that many people had travelled from all over Northern Ireland to experience our now famous discount day.” she said.
Last month (October), the green shoots of economic recovery were recognised with flowers when Ballymena scooped first place in the ‘Best Large Town’ category at the prestigious Ulster in Bloom Awards.
The much-coveted plaudit was secured through the hard work of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, working in conjunction with Ballymena Business Improvement District (BID).
Ballymena’s famous floral bears and 18 impressive tiered flower planters helped bring colour and vibrancy to the town centre and greatly impressed the Ulster in Bloom judges.
While the town’s horticultural success was celebrated with silverware, the hard work of local businesses was also recognised at the recent Ballymena Back to Business Awards.
Held at the Tullyglass Hotel, with over 270 guests in attendance, the event provided a welcome opportunity for the local business community to come together to network and provide mutual support.
Chairman of BID Stephen Reynolds’ dedication to creating favourable trading conditions for both local customers and businesses was recognised when he was awarded the Commitment to Ballymena Award.
Other winners in the BID area included Fiona Cupples of Homes Independent, who won Best Use of Digital Media including Social Media/Website, Gatto’s Ristorante, which was awarded Best Eating Establishment, while Customer Service Award (Hospitality Sector), sponsored by Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, went to The Grouse Complex.
Customer Service Award (Service Sector) was awarded to Gillian Matthews of Willow Beauty and Ian Aiken of TaxAssist Accountants.
Other notable recipients included Family Business of the Year given to The Adams family of Rococo and Gatto’s Ristorante and Stephen and Marie Reynolds of The Front Page Bar, who were recognised with the Involvement in the Community Award and Best Small Business Award Beyond HR.
Stephen Reynolds concluded: “We have surely had a tumultuous couple of years, but the past few months we are starting to see a real return to the positivity, tenacity and strength that the people of Ballymena have, and we are determined to pull together as a BID and as people of this community to ensure that we do all that we can to re-establish Ballymena’s place as Northern Ireland’s premier shopping town.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, William McCaughey, is pictured with & Emma McCrea, BID Manager.