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Aodhan Connolly

By working together we can get through this

Aodhan Connolly


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Busy, busy: Shoppers take to the streets of Belfast city centre on Sunday

Busy, busy: Shoppers take to the streets of Belfast city centre on Sunday

Busy, busy: Shoppers take to the streets of Belfast city centre on Sunday

Christmas should be the busiest time of the year for the retail industry with the sounds of happy shoppers grabbing bargains and tills ringing in what is our golden quarter - the time of the year when we will make the profit that sees us through the lean months at the start of the year.

But coronavirus has put paid to that. Not only has footfall been down and costs gone up, but non-essential retail lost two of its most important trading weeks. In essence this has been the hardest year for retail in my memory.

We must remember that Belfast was only on the cusp of recovering from the aftermath of the Bank Buildings fire that effectively cut the city centre in half, whenever this pandemic hit.

It is testament to the hard-working retailers of Belfast that they were able to come back strong from such an awful event. But it has meant that they had less ability to deal with the long periods of closure this year.

This pandemic does not discriminate and affects retailers large and small with ferocity.

We have seen some big names stumble and tumble over the past year and some local home-grown favourites too.

Unfortunately there are those who want to pitch large against small and industry against industry when what we really need to do is to recapture that spirit we had after the fire and at the start of this pandemic.

We need to work together. We have to show shoppers that our retail destinations are safe to get to, to go through and to shop in.

We need continued support from our Executive if our high street is not going to look different in 2021.

And of course we need shoppers to obey the rules, keep your distance even when queuing outside, wear a face covering, wash your hands and be kind to staff and each other.

Working together we can come through this, as we have other challenges.

Aodhan Connolly is director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium

Belfast Telegraph


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