Speak Up for Independent Retailers – Northern Ireland’s small, local independent retailers ‘disadvantaged’ during lock down

Speak Up for Independent Retailers – Northern Ireland’s small, local independent retailers ‘disadvantaged’ during lock down

As the two week shut down continues to impact severely on small independent retailers – NR asks why are these independently-owned small, local retailers that sell ‘non-essential’ items being unfairly disadvantaged?

The centres of Northern Ireland’s small market towns are being adversely damaged – with a long, hard recovery ahead.

They may never recover – that is the cold, harsh reality.

Thousands of jobs will be shed – that is the cold, harsh reality.

Every job loss has an impact on a local community and its local economy – that is the cold, harsh reality.

Cold, harsh reality

Northern Ireland’s small independent retailers are steeped in their second complete lock down this year – while large stores and multiples that sell ‘household items’ are able to continue trading normally.


Some of Northern Ireland’s small town centres may never recover their once vibrant, bustling trade – it’s not just sad, it’s a disgrace.

Out of town shopping centres, with their various discounters such as B&M, Poundland; B&Q, Home, large furniture shops such as IKEA and others – are all operating normally – because they sell ‘household items‘ – it doesn’t seem fair in this precious December trading period, the so-called ‘golden quarter’.

Social distancing isn’t always being managed fully in these out of town shopping centres. While measures are put in place to stem spread of the virus, it doesn’t always appear to be effectively administered or respected by some shoppers.

Struggle to make ends meet

It’s not an even playing field at the best of times.

Independent retailers struggle to make ends meet, manage a multitude of overheads and somehow try to make a meagre profit margin. Yet in the midst of the so-called ‘golden quarter’ – the run up to Christmas – small independent retailers are bemused and bewildered since lock down last Friday to see major multiples and large stores continue to trade normally – under the proviso that they sell ‘household items.’

Define ‘household items’?

In a week that sees Arcadia go in to administration, including its household-name high street brands such as Top Shop and Wallis; when Bon Marche also sheds 1,500 staff, Debenhams set to close across Northern Ireland; and Caffe Nero is facing a CVA (Company Voluntary Administration) – town centres are taking a battering, yet, in the midst of it all, the voiceless independent retailers are glossed over as they too, struggle to survive and have their concerns fully heard.

While shops selling essentials must stay open, and have a crucial remit in serving and supporting all local communities, NR asks why – in this second short lock down for all other independent retailers, why – are the larger stores enabled to stay open, under the loophole that they sell ‘household items’?

Covid Champions – Symbol groups and small essential retailers

In Northern Ireland, in 2020, local retailers, convenience stores, forecourts, symbol groups, butchers, pharmacies, greengrocers and others, have been the stalwarts, the absolute champions of the fight against Covid – and have done everything in their power to ensure that customers abide by the rules. It’s hard for them to have to stand by and see their neighbours – small independent retailers, often family owned book shops, boutiques, cafes, to list a few – all have to close completely – while the big out-of-towners gt to trade freely – selling all the items that the independents are not allowed to.

Meanwhile, in early December 2020, Northern Ireland’s daily rates of infections and deaths continue, and the small independent retail trader continues to carry the brunt.

Many of these retail outlets will flounder. Many will close. Many will never open their doors again. That’s the cold, harsh reality.

NR asks – who is speaking up for  these retailers? They seem to have lost their voice.