Leaders back local shopping appeal
Christmas shoppers have been urged to support their local traders, with more than a thousand facing closure.
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have backed the Shop Independent This Christmas campaign.
The scheme was launched by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA).
In a joint statement, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said: "At this the busiest shopping time of the year, it is important not to forget the local independent retailer.
"The support of small and medium sized enterprises is a key commitment in our draft Programme for Government and by shopping local this Christmas, the public are making a vital contribution to this important sector."
NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said he was delighted that they had backed his organisation's plea for support.
"Our campaign is all about encouraging consumers to do that little bit more of their Christmas shopping with local independent retailers," said Mr Roberts.
"If even five or 10% more of consumers shop independent this Christmas, it would be of great benefit to those local traders. There are many bargains to be found with independent retailers in every one of our villages, town and cities in Northern Ireland."
He added: "With over 1,000 local shops closing this year, it is now more important than ever to get this message across to consumers.
"We also want to highlight the huge contribution our independent retail sector makes to our economy, town centres and the community as a whole."