Big retail told to stop non-essential trade – Retail NI sets out five point plan
NI Ministers met with business representatives from bigger stores on Friday 15th January about the issue of selling non-essential items during lockdown while small retailers have had to shut up shop completely.
The discussions, involving the first and deputy first ministers, examined safety, staffing practices, click and collect and face coverings in stores with representatives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Lidl, IKEA and Marks and Spencer.
Justice Minister Naomi Long had said she hoped agreement could be reached voluntarily with the retail sector.
Earlier this week the First Minister Arlene Foster said some larger firms had been behaving in a selfish way.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said there was “huge resentment” among NI’s independent retailers because of a “lack of a level-playing field”.
“Family-owned independent retailers are forced to close with no click-and-collect yet they see the large supermarkets continue to virtually trade as normal,” he said.
“That situation has to be addressed”.
Five point plan
Retail NI outlined its five point plan to address the issues, which includes a vaccination plan for front line essential retail workers, a financial support scheme for independent food retailers who have lost trade, a rates holiday for a further six months from April for struggling retailers, restoration of click and collect on an appointment basis and the immediate establishment by the Executive of the High Streets Taskforce.
“We are absolutely committed to supporting all efforts by the Executive to compat the pandemic and to ensure that vital food and other products can be sold safely” said Retail NI’s Glyn Roberts following the meeting.
Level playing field
“Retail NI wants to see a level playing field on the pandemic regulations for all retailers that are currently trading. It is blatantly unfair that local independent retails that sell books, toys, clothes and homeware are unable to open nor operate a click and collect service while large supermarkets can remain open, sell these products and continue to make substantial profits.”
Retail NI also called for the High Street Taskforce to be established immediately.