Larne community has come out in support of the staff of Dunnes Stores following the shock announcement that the Main Street store is to close.
Approximately 50 employees are set to lose their jobs when the town centre branch, which is one of 15 in Northern Ireland, shuts up shop.
It is understood that the closure could take place later this month.
Mark Dobbin, vice-chairman, of Larne Traders’ Forum, said: “This news has come totally out of the blue. It will be devastating for Main Street where it is the biggest unit.
He indicated that some of the staff have worked in the store for three decades.
Alliance councillor Ald. Gerardine Mulvenna described the loss as “absolutely shocking”.
“It will be such a blow for the town centre but also a big blow for the whole community.
“A lot of elderly people like to shop there. It has a nice friendly community feel.
“The store has loyal customers and staff who have worked there for years.
“It is a very big blow. it is very shocking, particularly for the staff.
“The longer it lies vacant, it will tear the heart out of the town centre.”
Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart said: “A site which is so prominent and integral to the Main street in Larne cannot be allowed to lie empty for long.
“I have made representations to council asking what strategy it has to revitalise and halt the decline of town centres. I have also asked what flexibility does it have to re-balance the rates burden for town centre properties.”
Shoppers have described the loss of an anchor retailer which has been trading in Larne for more than 35 years as a “big blow” to the town, staff and for other businesses.
Taxi driver James Connor said that transporting Dunnes shoppers from outlying estates accounts for half his trade.
“I will now probably have to go out of my own home town to get work.”
Derek Ferguson, also a taxi driver, commented: “It will hit us badly.“
He indicated that he has driven shoppers from outlying areas including Islandmagee, Glenarm and Carnlough.