A fund should be set up to help support and boost the high street amid a “worrying period” for the retail sector, it’s been claimed.
Belfast Chamber chief Simon Hamilton has called on the Executive to “develop a strategy to ensure the long term sustainability of our city centres and high streets and specifically called for the creation of Future High Street Funds for Northern Ireland similar to the one in operation in GB”.
“There is no equivalent scheme for towns and cities in N,” he said.
“If we value the economic, social and cultural role that our city centres and high streets play then this needs to change.
“As the Executive turns its attention to how they help the economy to recover from the impact of Covid-19, they should carefully consider how they could create a scheme like the Future High Streets Fund that could help breathe new life back into our city centres and high streets.
“The 18% drop in retail sales across the UK in April highlights the threat to city centres and high streets posed by Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions it has brought. Retail is a sector that has been facing challenges for some time, but the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation with a 30% increase in online sales. This all adds up to a worrying period for the retail sector who face a troubling future of these trends continue.
“City centres and high streets are, of course, about much more than retail. Shops, along with offices, hospitality and leisure businesses, generate the vibrancy we normally see in Belfast city centre and towns across the region. They are where people come together and cannot be allowed to slowly decline.”