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 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 concluded “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.