Bushmills Business Association forms retail sub group to support shops as Covid lockdown restrictions are eased

Pam McAllister and Karen Yates from Bushmills Business Association.

BUSHMILLS Business Association (BBA) has welcomed the news that non essential shops can re-open and have established a retail-focused sub group to support businesses.

The village has a wide variety of retail offerings including stylish boutiques, antiques, souvenirs, art galleries, a small museum and craft shops making it a must stop destination.

Ian Bickerstaff from Gallery 1608 joined the BBA retail group as he recognised the potential to collaborate more with other business owners in the village.

His experience in strategic and financial management brings fresh new thinking to the group.

He said: “As a group we are planning a positive campaign over the next couple of months to get the message out that Bushmills is back in Business”.

Gallery 1608 houses one of Northern Ireland’s largest fine art collections showcasing the talents of Ireland’s top artists.

The Gallery also champions many local crafts including sculptures, ceramics and a stunning range of handmade jewellery.

The Gallery moved quickly, on the closure of their shop in March, by investing in their website introducing a seamless online shopping option.

Ian added: “Many of my customers like to view our collection in the space we have created. They enjoy talking to our experienced team about the artist so we have been working hard to allow that to happen and in addition we are now offering one to one appointments on selected evenings, by appointment”.

Karen Yates, founder and designer of Taylor Yates luxury soft leather handbags, also joined the working group and brings her broad experience in business and marketing.

Karen is currently the part time CEO of Coleraine Chamber and is working at the highest levels to engage with Stormont on economic recovery plans.

Speaking about her own business Karen explains that her customers fall in love with her bags once they get the opportunity to touch and feel how soft the leather is.

So she is offering virtual appointments with the option of sending customers a sample of British leather to do just that while they are having a virtual one to one. Karen believes businesses need to think differently and become more flexible in the short term to survive.

Pam McAllister of Therapy Style, a popular fashion boutique, has been a successful business owner in Bushmills for 18 years and has been an active member of the BBA.

Pam has welcomed the opportunity to chat to other retailers particularly during this difficult time.

She said: “It has been very challenging but I have focused on building my connection with my loyal customers and reach out to new customers.

“I spent lockdown rebranding, online sales, focusing more on social media and giving my shop a face lift. I am offering my customers the opportunity to book exclusive one to one appointments and as a virtual version offering Fashion FaceTime slots which I’m really excited about.

“I have really missed my customers.Chatting to other retailers has been really helpful and going forward we believe that working together will be a key part of getting back on track.”

BBA Vice Chairman Gary Stewart congratulated all three businesses for coming together at this stage and commended all the essential businesses who delivered excellent levels of service to residents during the pandemic.

He added: “We have a lot of hospitality businesses in Bushmills but we must not forget about our wide ranging retail offering and we are optimistic for our economic recovery and hopeful that other retailers will get involved as things settle down”.

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