Smaller shops in Northern Ireland will be allowed to reopen from Friday, the economy minister has announced.
As larger stores reopened on Monday, Diane Dodds signalled a wider retail reopening at the end of the week.
The latest easement will apply to “own door” retailers, while the Northern Ireland Executive will discuss plans for shopping centres and shopping malls later this week.
Making the announcement during a visit to Belfast city centre on Monday, Mrs Dodds said the move will help with the economic recovery.
“I am very pleased to be able to confirm that all non-essential goods retailers in Northern Ireland can reopen from Friday 12 June, subject to them adhering to the necessary safety measures and no increase in the spread of the virus,” she said.
“This was considered at this morning’s Executive meeting and it was agreed that, as long as retailers can adhere to the necessary safety measures, and there is no increase in the spread of the virus by Thursday, then these shops can reopen.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the local economy. The recovery has already begun and it is time now for the pace to accelerate.
“The reopening of all goods retail outlets will be a huge part of this.”
The minister added: “This is a major step forward today but there is more work to do and I will continue to work to progress the recovery.”
Very welcome news, we have always made the case that safety must be the priority, not what you sell or how large your business is.— FSB Northern Ireland (@FSB_NI) June 8, 2020
Small businesses will welcome the opportunity to open the shutters and play their part in restarting the economy. @tinamckenz @FSBNIRegion https://t.co/b0R1UvD3CU
The announcement was warmly welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses.
FSB head of external affairs Roger Pollen said it will be “music to the ears of many business owners”.
“Small retailers will be relieved that they will soon be permitted to reopen their business, and play their part in re-starting the economy,” he said.
“We would also urge the public now to get behind our smaller businesses, not just by giving them their custom, but also by respecting the necessary restrictions they will have to put in place in order to operate safely.”
The Republic relaxed restrictions on many shops on Monday.
Meanwhile, hotels will be able to reopen from July 20 if the virus remains under control, Stormont ministers have said.
Hill Street, #NEWRY vs Henry Street, #DUBLIN at 10.30am TODAY - "Unfair Competition."— Newry Chamber (@NewryChamber) June 8, 2020
Our local retailers in NI need and deserve the opportunity to trade on an equal basis with counterparts in ROI, to prevent further losses.#Retail #Reopening #TheTimeIsNow #Newry pic.twitter.com/UciHvuCaVy
Colm Shannon, chief executive of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, issued a joint statement along with chambers of commerce from Belfast, Londonderry and the North Coast and said the hotel and hospitality sector needs the opportunity to open earlier.
“July is the peak season and if the southern hospitality sector is allowed to trade from the June 29, our hotels, restaurants, pubs and B&Bs will suffer further losses,” he said.
“Many families will have to stay at home for their holidays this summer and our hospitality sector needs the opportunity to compete for this staycation business.”