The independent retail sector is said to be playing a crucial role in Northern Ireland's economy.
Glyn Roberts, the new chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, (NIIRTA) said it shouldn't be underestimated.
He noted independent retailers provide investment and employment in every section of the Ulster community.
Mr Roberts, who joins NIIRTA after spending nearly seven years as head of Press and parliamentary affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses in the province, said it was his intention to ensure that NIIRTA's policy agenda continues to be heard loud and clear with decision makers at Stormont.
He replaces Bryan Gray, who had headed up NIIRTA since it was formed in 2000 to give Ulster's independent retail sector a "cohesive single voice" . It now represents around 900 independent retailers.
Bryan Gray, pictured above, (left) handing over the reins of NIIRTA to Glyn Roberts, said: "I am delighted with what we have achieved in the last eight years and have a lot of hope for the future of retail," he said.
"I have seen a tremendous amount of change and although I am sad to leave it all behind it is the right time for me to do so," he added.
Mr Gray was instrumental in the sector's push for a robust retail planning policy in the province, which NIIRTA hopes will finally be published this year.
The former chief executive also led the organisation's lobbying and publicity activities on a range of issues, from environmental concerns to liquor licensing.