In their joint evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Economy today, Retail NI and the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium have called for the NI Executive to bring forward a recovery plan for local town and city centres.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts and NI Retail Consortium Director Aodhan Connolly jointly said: “We welcome the publication of the NI Executive’s Five Stage Plan as a significant step forward for our economy and for the eventual reopening of our entire retail sector with protections for staff and shoppers.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, footfall and trade in town and city centre has all but collapsed causing huge damage to our economy”
“Both our organisations believe it is now time for the Executive to begin work on a reopening plan for our town and city centres which will ensure the right health and safety guidance for retailers, key businesses in town centres and their employees.
“We want to see a target of early June set for the reopening of the rest of our retail sector, in line with the plan announced for England by the Prime Minister, of course predicated on the medical evidence.
“Further help for retailers is also needed. The Small Business Grants need to be extended for multi-site retailers and rate relief also needs to be extended for the full twelve months as is the case in the rest of the UK.
“Retail will play a key role in the economic recovery of Northern Ireland and will provide employment and investment in the challenging times ahead.”
Both organisations are also asking for longer-term support for our high streets including rejuvenating retail destinations such as town centres and high streets by creating Town Centres Fund, which BIDs and others with good ideas can access as well as establishing an advisory group (with retail represented) on economic recovery.
Also, for the wider economy, there is the need to commission a study to look at how Northern Ireland in the short, medium and longer-terms can build its economic resilience, learning the lessons from the Covid-19 situation.
The retail chiefs added: “We need to learn lessons from these past few months and make sure that our high streets can not only recuperate but are ready for the challenges of the 21st century.
Coade calls for more support for city centre businesses.
Newry and Armagh Alliance representative Jackie Coade has called for more support for city centre businesses in the constituency.
The Alliance representative said with a potential Covid 19 recession and Brexit on the horizon it is important local businesses and city centre management groups in the two cities were helped as much as possible.
“I encourage everyone to support local businesses within Newry and Armagh as we turn to the gradual opening of our manufacturing and retail businesses. Now more than ever retailers need your support,” she said.
“We need to encourage growth of Newry and Armagh city centres and support those businesses who have struggled during the lockdown. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for many, but with government initiatives and sharing knowledge and support, I hope we can get through this tough period ahead.
“I am happy to lend my support to all businesses within our constituency in any way I can.”