THE impact of the pandemic on the number of shoppers in Ballymena town centre has been laid bare in a shock new report.
However, bargain-hunters are said to be pounding the pavements again in the run up to Christmas with the ‘unofficial’ Discount Day drawing crowds.
Footfall figures show that in April – the time of the first coronavirus lockdown – the number of people going into stores in Ballymena town centre fell dramatically by three-quarters.
The May figure was 70 per cent down but by June around half the normal number of shoppers were out and about.
July saw only a 20 per cent decrease on the same month the previous year but in August the year on year figure decrease had increased to 25 per cent.
It was the same picture in September but when the second ‘circuit breaker’ was announced in October it meant shoppers in Ballymena were down by a third.
A Council report said: ‘As previously reported there had been encouraging feedback from businesses stating that although footfall is poor they are still reporting positive sales figures.’
During the current period of enhanced restrictions the famous Ballymena Discount Day was officially cancelled.
However, a number of shops still had bargains on sale and shoppers flocked to the town despite the official message that the event had been cancelled.
Alderman Audrey Wales told a council meeting in Ballymena on Monday night it was estimated that 17,000 people had attended Discount Day events in 2019 but that this year the ‘unofficial event’ in early November this year saw around 21,000 people – 7,000 per day – visit the town over the Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
She said people are ‘creatures of habit’ and it looked as if people still wanted to go to the shops over that period this year.
Meanwhile, she said around 600 people entered an initiative which sees shoppers eligible for twenty prizes of £1,000 in shopping vouchers if they spend at least £30 in shops.
Alderman Wales told the council meeting the first winner of a £1,000 award said that although she felt safe shopping in Ballymena she missed getting a coffee and “traybake” because cafes and restaurants are still currently closed under the current level of restrictions.