ONE of the greatest challenges facing the Northern Ireland retail sector and town centres is currently unfolding and over the past couple of years traders have seen a decrease in profits, footfall, and a rise in costs and competition from major supermarket chains all on the back of a major recession.
Now representatives from the new Town Centre Alliance recently met with the Ministers of Enterprise, Regional Development, Social Development and the two OFMDFM Junior Ministers to address way forward out of these these fundamental problems.
This was the first time business organisations have made a formal presentation to the Executive Sub Group on the Economy
Glyn Roberts, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trading Association (NIIRTA) Chief Executive, with Joe Jordan, President of the Belfast Chamber of Trade, Stephen Dunlop, Chairman of Association of Town Centre Management and Adrian Farrell, President of Portadown Chamber of Commerce, met with the Ministers at Parliament Buildings just before Christmas
In a joint statement after the meeting the group said: “At the meeting we didn’t bring the Ministers problems, we brought them solutions to the challenges facing our Retail Sector and Town Centres. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to be the first Business Organisations to present to the Executive Sub Group on the Economy.
“We put forward new ideas on rates, planning, car parking and above all we pressed the Ministers on the need for a new Shop Vacancy Strategy, given that 1 in 5 shops are now empty.
“This meeting is a very useful start to getting a new joined up approach from the Executive and we will be engaging further with the Ministers.”
The meeting was chaired by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, to discuss the challenges facing Northern Ireland’s high streets. Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, and representatives from the Town Centre Alliance (TCA) attended the meeting for the discussion on the “Future of Our High Streets”.