“Give local retailers a reopening date” urges Belfast Chamber

Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton has urged the Northern Ireland Executive to follow the example of England and Ireland and indicate to local retailers when they can reopen again with appropriate safety measures in place saying that there is no good reason why retailers here should be treated differently.

The business organisation which represents a considerable number of retailers in Belfast said that members and stores across the region are operating at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in England and Ireland.

Commenting, Simon Hamilton said, “The announcement by the Prime Minister that non-essential retail in England can reopen from 15 June is something that the NI Executive should replicate immediately. Retailers in the Republic of Ireland are also working towards indicative dates in mid June when they can reopen. There is no good reason why the retail sector in Northern Ireland should be disadvantaged by not being given any sense or signal at all when they can start trading again.

Belfast Chamber members and retailers across the region have plans in place to reopen in a way that ensures staff and customer safety. They have conducted risk assessments. They will take measures like reconfiguring their store layouts, putting queuing systems in place and erecting signage and screens to ensure staff and customer safety. But that work is considerable and can’t happen overnight. Retailers, who have placed most of their staff on furlough, need some notice so that they can implement those detailed plans they have developed.

Hopefully the Executive will follow the example of England and Ireland and give our hard hit retailers an indication as to when they can reopen so that they can do so safely as soon as they are permitted to. There is no good reason why retailers here should be treated differently”.