Mall gets a real kick from sports shop

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Portadown’s High Street Mall has been given a real sporting chance of a turn-around with the advent of InterSport which has moved into a large unit in the main concourse, which was formerly occupied by the clothing multinational Internacionale.

Not only is it a boost for the shopping centre, but the attractive new sports outlet is perfectly positioned in the mall. That particular row of units – which used to accommodate the likes of New Look and Mothercare – plus the departed Internacionale – had become completely devoid of retail outlets.

The management did their utmost to disguise the fact. But the various history displays, the play area and the large advertising hoardings could not mask the fact that it wasn’t exactly a mecca for shoppers.

But the weekend move by InterSport, with the neighbouring unit (formerly Vodafone) also being occupied by Card Land, is just what the centre needs. And it looks as if it will be the catalyst the new owners of the building are striving for.

And there’s more. The former Mothercare unit (also strategically positioned) has also landed a new client who will be in place for February. No name has been released, but the management confirms it is a highly-respected multi-national which will add new life to that particular corner.

The past couple of years have been tough, not only for the mall, but for the town in general, and the about-turn by Dunnes Stores on their decision a couple of months to close is also to be welcomed. Their grocery end and their café are missed, but we are assured that the clothing end is thriving. Dunnes, though, keep their cards close to their chest. They actually own their unit – rather than renting it from the mall management – and do their own thing.

InterSport, though, is locally owned (by businessman Padraic McKeever) and he is making extremely positive noises. He has a similar outlet in Lurgan and is part of an all-Ireland group of independents who band together for buying power. And he points out that Portadown is in dire need of a large sports outlet and offers the most commercial of brands like Nike and Adidas and all the rest.

So he has a local ethos, and hopefully the sporting types of the town (and the population in general) will support him and give Portadown the boost it needs.

It’s good news generally, underpinned by Toymaster just across the road in the old Wellworth building, so the signs are that Portadown is rising from the ashes.

But there is one ‘minus’ as the dark days of winter approach. And while it has nothing to do with shopping, it has all to do with a brighter town.

With the clocks having gone back, the poor quality of Portadown centre street lighting has come into focus. The long winter nights have underlined that Portadown centre is like the Black Hole of Calcutta, with no light standards in the central band. We’re being kept in the dark.

It’s time for the council to put pressure on the DRD and the street lighting. Not only it is unsightly – but it’s dangerous.