Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has joined with the independent retailers’ organisation Retail NI in sending an open to letter to Belfast City Councillors calling on them to step back from a proposal to extend Sunday trading hours. The two organisations are instead again suggesting a summit of all stakeholders to take a proper look at what Belfast offers to residents, visitors and tourists over the whole weekend.

Commenting on the closure of five Carpetright Stores in Belfast, Derry, Ballymena, Coleraine and Bangor, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

“The closure of these five stores is another sad loss to our retail sector. Our thoughts are with the staff who are losing their jobs and we hope they will be successful in finding employment elsewhere in the retail sector”

“We hope that Carpetright’s restructuring plan is successful in saving the overall business”

Commenting on the proposals outlined by the owners of Sprucefield for thirteen new retail units and a hotel, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

“As an organisation which campaigns for a town centre first retail planning policy, our preference is for these thirteen new retail units to be located in Lisburn City Centre, rather than in an out of town location”

“These proposals will draw trade and jobs away from Lisburn City Centre and are in breach of the planning regulations which promote town centre first retail applications”

Retail NI has expressed concerns about the impact that deposit return schemes would have on its members and overall recycling rates following today’s announcement from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Gove on a consultation for such a scheme.

While the Ministers announcement is for England, it is likely that the consultation could be extended to Northern Ireland.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

Retail NI has voiced support for proposals submitted by Translink for a North-West Multi-Modal Transport Hub in Derry-Londonderry.

Located at the old listed Waterside Station on the city’s Duke Street, the proposed facility is an ambitious project intended to transform all forms of travel in the city and beyond; it represents an investment of £27m, including time-bound EU funding, and will include retail and community space, a new park and ride site, a sustainable travel centre and an extension to the greenway to connect the new facility to the city centre via the Peace Bridge.

Commenting on the NI Budget unveiled by the Secretary of State today, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

“Retail NI is pleased that the NIO has listened to our concerns regarding this budget and not imposed the 10% hike in business rates and ended the Small Business Rate Relief which was included in the Budget Options Paper”

“If both of these had have been included in this Budget, we would have seen members, who struggle to pay their existing rates bill, closing their businesses”

Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI CEO,  Helen McEntee TD, the Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, Glyn Roberts, Retail NI CEO

Leaders from Northern Ireland’s retail and manufacturing industries met with Helen McEntee TD, the Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, and pressed her to ensure that there is no border across or between these islands as a result of Brexit.  

As the UK negotiates its exit from the EU and its future relationship, there is concern in business that the two industries, which will be most impacted by any customs or border restrictions, would be significantly damaged.

Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and other business, higher education and third sector groups met with the Northern Ireland Office Special Advisors and senior officials to discuss the NI Budget. The Budget is expected to be unveiled by the Secretary of State later this week.

Speaking after the meeting the Chief Executives of the Retail NI and Hospitality Ulster, Glyn Roberts and Colin Neill said:

“Both our organisations would much rather be engaging with devolved Ministers on a Budget. However with no Executive in place, the NIO will have to produce a Budget”

Responding to the news that Retailers Toys R Us and Maplin have both gone into administration, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

“With both Maplin and Toys R Us going into administration it is a sad day for the retail sector. With nine stores in Northern Ireland, between the two retailers, our thoughts are with the staff at this difficult time”

“The economic impact of this is much wider than just the nine stores. There will also be the reduction in footfall for neighbouring retailers which has to factored in”

Retail NI has reminded Consumers and Retailers that the paper Bank of England £10 banknote is due to expire this Thursday (1st March) and they need to exchange them at their bank or Post Office after this date.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:

“This Thursday sees another banknote being withdrawn from circulation. This has been a challenging few years for shoppers and retailers with the introduction of the new £1 coin and polymer banknotes”