Hobby shop Craftworld to close after 34 years
LONG-established Belfast retailer hobbies shop Craftworld is shutting after more than 30 years with the loss of 10 jobs.
It opened as a standalone store in 1976 in Queen Street, having originally been a department within the LeisureWorld toy store before it closed.
In a statement its owners said: "It is with deep regret and sadness that Craftworld will be closing its doors.
"This has been a very hard decision to make, but due to the downturn in retail sales, the impact of online giants, the Primark fire, bus lanes and limited parking, we can no longer stay in business.
"We would like to thank all our regular customers for their support over the years and will miss you all."
The shop will remain open until all stock is sold off in a closing down sale, and it will continue to trade via the internet.
Managing director Gillian Kennedy described it as a "sad day" and added: "We were part of LeisureWorld before they closed down and then we moved over to this side of the street more than 20 years ago."
She said: "Many of our customers say they don't come into Belfast any more due to the price of parking, the one-way system and bus lanes, and online is also too convenient for people.
"This closure has been on the cards for the past year or so, and it has hit everybody hard."
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said it was a shame the company couldn't see a way through its current difficulties.
And he said it further underlines the need for the restoration of a Stormont Executive to help work towards a "bold and radical plan to create 21st century town and city centres".
"More needs to be done to help local traders survive and to attract more independent retailers," he said.
"We need to get transport right and reassess the rating system.
"Craftworld's closure will have a significant knock-on effect, not just on its staff, but for the whole of the Queen Street area, where there will be further reduced footfall."
Hundreds of shoppers took to social media to voice their disappointment at the decision and in support of the staff being made redundant.
One Facebook user originally from Holywood but now living in London wrote: "I have been using Craftworld for 14 years. I’m upset that the business has had to make this decision. I hope the community can support its employees and they find their creative pathways again".