Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade has joined Chambers and Trade Associations across Northern Ireland in calling for greater support for the Retail Sector.

Commenting on the joint statement supported by Newry Chamber, The Chief Executive Officer, Colm Shannon said “Retail was already facing many challenges. COVID 19 has added significantly to the pressures faced by many retailers. After a long period of closure for the non-food sector, retail wants to fully open. 

“While retailers welcome that some can open from Monday 8th June, the industry is calling on the Executive to help the sector fight back by implementing the following measures."

The Measures

  • A NI version of the £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, to allow local Councils and retailers to implement plans for the safe reopening of city centres and high streets;
  • A focus on safety as a guide to reopening. Retailers have been working hard to get ready to reopen learning from the experience of grocers, pharmacies and other sectors that have been able to open;
  • A time frame to let retailers prepare to open. Some may be able to open after a few days but others need 3 or 4 weeks to make physical changes to their stores and get their supply chain up to speed;
  • A tapering off of financial support rather than a quick stop that will provide a shock to the industry that will be hard to absorb;
  • Support in safely getting shoppers to and through our towns and cities. This will require a joined up approach across local and central government and its agencies; 
  • The repurposing and reimaging of public space to ensure satisfactory space exists for queuing customers and pedestrian movement; and
  • Unequivocal guidance to the public about shopping during this period and to encourage them back to our shopping destinations. 

The Chamber CEO concluded “Retail is at the heart of a vibrant living city. Many retailers have invested heavily in their own premises adding significantly to the quality of our towns and cities. Retail represents 12% of the NI Economy, pays over a quarter of all business rates and employs around 100,000 people across Northern Ireland.

 “To remain a viable business sector, it needs on going support from the NI Executive.”

The Joint Statement spoke about the challenges of the retail environment mentioning the points below.

The Retail Environment

  • Despite sales being up for the first two weeks in March, since then we have had the worst retail sales year on year since figures began in 1995.
  • Even though some were able to open, year on year major retailers are down tens of millions of pounds a week. Small retailers are similarly proportionally affected.
  • Across NI there has been a trend for shoppers to go to convenience stores during this period and footfall in supermarkets has dived.
  • 69% of non-food retailers say their ability to trade was significantly impacted by COVID-19. Of those with closed stores, only 48.1% are trading online as normal, 13.5% have closed their online offering and 32.7% are trading online in a limited capacity.
  • Of those with closed stores, 72% only have 1-4 months of cash reserves, even with furloughing/rates relief and are now running dangerously close to peril
  • Non-food retailers will also see extra costs from implementing social distancing when they begin trading again.
  • Tens of thousands of jobs are at risk in Northern Ireland.


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