“We need to be open to survive” says retail industry
Retailers across Northern Ireland have issued a plea to the Executive to bring forward plans to safely reopen shops.
The group – organised by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and Belfast Chamber of Commerce – has developed a report entitled “Fighting Back: The Way Back for Retail in Northern Ireland”
Outlining the challenges and support needed to get high streets and shopping destinations across Northern Ireland up, and running, the groups calls on the government to provide a full-time frame to let retailers prepare to open.
The consequences of not reopening the industry imminently will be “significant”.
“This is make or break time for retailers across Northern Ireland as the longer that this lockdown goes on the harder it will be for them to reopen,” said Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium. “This will have a significant detrimental impact to towns and cities as well as for shopper choice.”
Uniting together, the NI Retail Consortium, Belfast Chamber, and the chambers of Derry, Newry, Bangor, Newtownards, Holywood, Lisburn, Ballymena, Causeway, Banbridge, Portadown and Retail NI, have asked for a multiagency approach including government departments, local councils and the PSNI to deliver support.
In addition to a timeline, the group has also called for a tapering off of financial support, rather than a quick stop, as well as the support to safely get shoppers to return to Northern Ireland’s towns and cities.
“Retail can be a springboard for the economy to bounce back but they must be able to open,” Connolly continued.
Allowing non-food retailers to begin opening their doors from June, 8 is a step in the right direction, believes Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber.
“It is important that the rest of retail is also given a date when it can start trading again,” he said. “Retailers want to get going again and make a positive contribution to the recovery of our economy. For us, what should guide the Executive in their decision making should be the ability of shops to reopen in a way that is safe for staff and customers and not what they sell, where they sell it and how big their store is.”
However, more effort needs to be made to encourage shoppers back to the high street during this uncertain period.
“We need all levels of government to work with us. This is not just about agencies and destinations taking responsibility, this has to be shoppers’ responsibility too. We hope that the Public Health Agency will work with us to provide guidance and strong messaging that lets shoppers know it is safe to come back shopping. The public need to be aware of how to keep themselves and other around them safe. Everyone has their part to play in making the reopening of Northern Ireland a success,” added Connolly.