Trade body Retail NI has outlined a “compromise option” in attempt to solve Belfast City Council’s Sunday trading hours dispute.
The independent retail association has proposed a “Small Business Sunday” campaign to promote smaller shops in a bid to solve the issue.
Last month, the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee decided to organise a weekend summit of all stakeholders to break the deadlock after the decision was deferred twice in as many weeks.
Councillors have been unable to reach agreement on the issue of designating Belfast as a "holiday resort", thus allowing large shops to extend their trading hours on 18 Sundays each year.
In the last 12 months there has been one committee vote and two public consultations on the issue.
Combining the two consultations, there is a slight majority (52.8%) in favour of extending Sunday trading hours for large shops.
Retail NI and shopworkers union USDAW are firmly against extending the Sunday trading hours in Belfast, as they say it would be unfair to smaller shops.
The summit was held on Thursday and included representatives from BCC, Belfast Chamber of Commerce, USDAW, Retail NI and other key stakeholders.
Retail NI outlined a “Small Shop Sunday” campaign as a compromise option to the ongoing dispute, which would promote smaller retailers early on Sunday mornings, while still allowing large shops to open from 1pm to 6pm as they do currently.
“At the Summit we outlined a proposal for a Small Shop Sunday campaign, which will promote and encourage shoppers and tourists to support the city’s smaller retailers on a Sunday morning between 11am-1pm. Large retailers would continue to trade from 1pm onwards,” Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said.
“This proposal would offer visitors something different for Sunday morning and could showcase Belfast’s fantastic independent retailers through a dynamic social media campaign and increased animation.
‘Our proposals have the support of the shop workers union USDAW and could provide tourists with something different on a Sunday morning. It does not require any changes to the existing Sunday Trading legislation and we believe it is a fair compromise.”
Mr Roberts pointed to the success of previous campaigns such as “Small Business Saturday” and said the Sunday option could be implemented over a three month pilot, starting from July before being evaluated at the end of October.
“We have always said that just allowing large multinational retailers to open on a Sunday morning lacked imagination and new thinking is required,” he added.
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