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Trade body Retail NI has identified five areas that would retailers during the pandemic.

Following a meeting with Northern Ireland’s First and deputy First Ministers, Retail NI outlined a five-point plan to support the retail sector and combat the pandemic

1. Vaccination for front line essential retail workers at appropriate point

2. Financial Support Scheme for independent food retailers who have lost trade

3. Rates Holiday for further six months from April for struggling small traders

4. Restoration of Click and Collect on an appointment basis

5. Immediate establishment by the Executive of the High Streets Taskforce

Speaking after the meeting, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts explained the points.“We are absolutely committed to supporting all efforts by the Executive to combat the pandemic and to ensure that vital food and other products can be safely sold to the community that our members proudly serve”

“Retail NI wants to see a level playing field on the pandemic regulations for all retailers that are currently trading. It is blatantly unfair that local independent retailers who sell books, toys, clothes and homeware are unable to open nor operate a click and collect service while large supermarkets can remain open, sell these products and continue to make substantial profits.”

Roberts urged the NI Executive to introduce an appointment-based click and collect to improve customer and staff safety.

“The Executive needs to give these local independent retailers a lifeline by immediately permitting them to operate a click and collect service on a strict appointment only basis, which would be subject to inspection,” he said. “Retail NI also wants the Executive to include essential independent food retailers, who have lost trade and footfall, in the Financial Support Scheme. Many of these businesses are trying to trade in town and city centres which are virtual ghost towns, with most of their neighbouring businesses closed”

Retail NI echoed the sentiment of many retailers in calling for shop staff to be given a higher priority when it comes to vaccinations. There is currently a petition to prioritise retail workers in the UK that has more than 33,000 signatures. This can be signed here.

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“We absolutely understand there are groups of people, such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and emergency services that need to be vaccinated first. But given that retail workers are on the shopfloor, interacting with the public and are vital to ensuring the supply of food, they should be factored into the local vaccination program”

“It is also vital that the Executive immediately convenes the High Streets Taskforce to begin to produce a roadmap for recovery as the vaccination process accelerates and allows the economy to safely reopen”