Belfast Chamber welcomes reopening date for some retailers but greater clarity needed urgently

Belfast Chamber has welcomed today’s announcement by the Executive that some non-essential retailers will be able to open again in Northern Ireland from 8 June. The business organisation which represents many of the city’s retailers said that while some further clarity is required on precisely what shops are able to open.

Commenting, Simon Hamilton said, “This is good news for the retailers who will now be able to open from 8 June. It is frustrating though for those who will have to wait a little longer. Retailers have been really hard hit by the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. Belfast Chamber has been asking the Executive to indicate to retailers when they will be permitted to open again and we warmly welcome the announcement by the First Minister and deputy First Minister that some shops can start trading again from the 8 June. 

However, the announcement today requires some urgent clarification.  It is not clear what exactly is meant by a store with lower frequency custom and what constitutes a larger store. That clarity needs to come quickly as stores need time to prepare to open in a way that is safe for staff and customers as that is of absolute importance.  Many retailers have been working hard to prepare to reopen and help to get our economy going again.  Those that won’t be able to on the 8 June will look to the Executive for an early date when they are able to.

Retail as a sector has seen the majority of stores closed with no income. Most staff have been furloughed. Whilst some further clarity is required, this will allow a lot of the industry to get going again after such a long time in cold storage. 

Belfast Chamber would call on the Executive to also issue clear guidance for retailers to follow, work with the sector to enable a prompt reopening and also replicate the £50 million High Street Reopening Fund which has been launched in England to help retailers and local Councils her city centres and high streets ready for reopening”.