Landmark never reopened after lockdown
One of Belfast’s most famous shoe shops has gone on the market for £695,000.
Reid’s Shoes, which operated on Sandy Row for 74 years, is seeking a buyer.
The shop closed during the first lockdown in March 2020, with the intention of reopening again. But the shutters remained down as restrictions eased.
The family business, run by Philip Reid, now operates just one store, at Market Square in Lisburn.
The loss of the outlet will come as a blow to many people who have memories of getting their first shoes, school shoes and everyday footwear there.
Generations of families flocked to the store over its seven-and-a-half decades to purchase what were considered some of the most robust, quality brands on the market, such as Startrite, Clarks and Lelli Kellys.
The business was well-known for its customer service, giving every child who got a new pair of shoes a balloon and a bar of chocolate.
In later years it took photographs of youngsters visiting for their first pair of shoes.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said it was this service that made it the go-to place for many families, but a “perfect storm” of challenges had seemingly stripped away yet another independent retailer.
He added: “I know the business very well and it’s certainly a well-regarded independent retailer.
“It was a destination store and attracted people from all over Belfast and further afield.
“Its closure is another sad loss of a well-known independent and the local area will feel it. Whenever any retailer closes it means a loss of footfall for other businesses in the location.”
Mr Roberts said the pandemic delivered a blow to many independents, especially non-essential stores forced to close and which didn’t have an online presence to buffer loss of in-person sales.
In March 2020 Reid’s posted on its Facebook page that it would close its two stores as coronavirus spread.
It did operate a website, but that has since been suspended.
In June 2020 it reopened the Lisburn store, but the Sandy Row outlet remained shut.
Mr Roberts added: “I think certainly there have been a few casualties in that sector.
“That type of retailer would’ve been closed for a lot of the pandemic, and I know the success of the high street voucher scheme came too late for Reid’s in Sandy Row.”
It was hoped Chancellor Rishi Sunak would announce a tax levy for online retailers in his spring budget this week.
However, a consultation is under way for an online sales tax as a means to rebalance the taxation of the retail sector between online and in-store.
“It is increasingly challenging for independent stores, especially clothing and shoe retailers, given what is a very difficult climate and the competition from online retailers,” Mr Roberts said.
“These online companies must pay their way. “We still have a difficult situation with business rates, we have a cost-of-living crisis, and there’s a cost of doing business. But we have some very, very good fashion retailers within our membership.
“A lot are doing well because of the level of customer service they offer, so it’s not all bad news for them.”
Mr Reid was unavailable for comment.