Belfast Telegraph

Retail NI, Glyn Roberts: It makes sense to buy independent

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By Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive, Retail NI

Tomorrow, Retail NI will launch its signature campaign, Independents' Day. Now in its 10th year, the campaign showcases all that is good about Northern Ireland's fantastic array of local retailers, urging shoppers to support independent businesses.

It takes place every year on July 4, which is, of course, more widely known as America's Independence Day and while this day typically celebrates the stars and stripes across the Atlantic, we want to champion the many stars of our sector who have undoubtedly earned their stripes.

What makes Independents' Day truly unique is the efforts made to educate consumers and convince them of the wider benefits of shopping local. Retail NI is working to get the message out there that 70 pence in every pound spent with an independent retailer is put back into your local economy and goes on to support farmers, producers and even town centres.

Our message goes beyond 'Shop Local'; we are highlighting the innovation and entrepreneurship of our independent retailers. This sector is continuously growing and adapting to keep up with changing consumer trends and, it must also be said, often navigating challenging waters. The retail industry is especially susceptible to changing markets as stores compete daily with small profit margins, increasing overheads and fluctuating consumer confidence. Undoubtedly, these uncertainties cause concern yet the industry's greatest strength is in how it overcomes these threats.

The vibrancy of independent retailers has allowed us to avoid a 'clone town' scenario and Retail NI is extremely proud of our hardworking members who are playing a central role in creating new, exciting town centres, which cater to the 21st century shopper. It's important that people appreciate the many fantastic, fun destinations we have that people will want to visit time and time again. Putting social into shopping is key to the future of our retail sector.

This July, consumers across Northern Ireland will have access to unique shopping experiences but whether you're in Lisburn or Ballymena, Enniskillen or Cookstown, a wide range of independent retailers will be there to cater to your every need.

To encourage shoppers to stay local, we are working on a range of incentives and discounts for consumers, making a trip to the high street all the more appealing. But this isn't something we can do alone and are pleased to have the full support of our local councils and chambers. Given that our local councils play the lead role in regenerating our town centres, it's fantastic many have arranged discounted car parking on this day.

We have lost too many independent retailers in recent years and, at 15%, Northern Ireland still has the highest shop vacancy in the UK.

It is for this reason that we are making the plea to shoppers to get out there and make the strong statement that you value having local shops.

Thanks to support from our partners Translink and Heathrow Airport, it's clear that this July all roads lead to your local high street.

We can't promise fireworks or parades but, with your support, we can create more vibrant and bespoke town centres, which, for me, trumps a soulless out-of-town development any day of the year.

  • If you want to get involved, please contact us at info@retailni.com or @retail_ni or through our Facebook page.

Belfast Telegraph

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