Retail NI on tackling the double trouble of pandemic and protocol
In a perfect storm of pandemic and protocol, Retail NI has been striving to pull its members through these difficult times and out the other side.
“We are very much trying to support members and ensure that the high streets are fully opened and safe for shoppers and customers to return” said Glyn, who is hopeful that the threatened ‘third wave’ from the Indian variant won’t hit the high streets as hard as the previous two lock downs.
“The big difference is the vaccine – and that’s now been extended to 18 year olds. There’s still some way to go but we have made huge progress in maintaining the momentum” said Glyn.
Retail NI has worked hard on the scheme to ensure that members who were still able to trade but who lost significant footfall through no fault of their own were compensated. The £72m announced by the Department of Finance has helped some retailers to get grants of £5,000 or £10,000.
“This was welcome but now we need to turn our attention to the multi-site grants. Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK where those businesses with more than one or multiple premises didn’t get the additional grants. This penalised many businesses who were essential services, particularly those who had larger formats.”
However while firefighting the current and immediate issue of the pandemic, the High Street Task Force is tasked with sourcing solutions for the medium to longer term and broader issues facing retailers.
“We need as much support as possible to help retailers on the road to recovery – it’s important that the Executive invests as much as possible in to the high street,” said Glyn, who chairs the policy and influencing sub-group of the High Street Task Force, working closely with a range of stakeholders.
“Business rates, planning, parking – these are just some of the broader issues that need addressed. We need structural changes to antiquated rates structure, but the task force won’t be reporting any time soon.”
The protocol continues to pose various problems for the economy and the wider retail sector – particularly when the grace period ends in October.
“There are significant challenges. We had a meeting on June 1st with Lord Frost. We need a veterinary agreement, dynamic alignment and a solutions based approach. We need to focus on solutions.”
Neighbourhood Retailer Newsletter Sign Up Link > http://eepurl.com/deWOqf