Shoppers urged to ‘Buy Belfast’ this Christmas as online market opens for new businesses

More than 80 Belfast businesses have set up shop in the virtual world thanks to a Belfast City Council initiative.

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 2:00 pm

More than 80 Belfast businesses have set up shop in the virtual world thanks to a Belfast City Council initiative.

The ‘Buy Belfast’ Virtual Christmas Market was launched as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week and is already open for business throughout the local area until Monday, December 20.

The aim of the scheme is to provide local businesses and entrepreneurs with a platform to share and sell their products to over 6,500 virtual shoppers throughout the world.

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Maria O’Neill, founder of Pillowboxed, at her ‘pop-up’ stall in St George’s Market with her son Cillian O’Neill

It’s the second time the initiative has run, and traders are hoping that it is just as successful as last year with even more business and shoppers joining.

Councillor Ryan Murphy, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee praised the programme as well as the hardwork and commitment of the economic development team who have worked tirelessly throughout the ongoing pandemic.

He said: “The last 18 months or so have been particularly tough for small, independent businesses and for many, being able to adapt and take their businesses online and continue selling has been key to their survival.

“Our economic development team has worked hard throughout the ongoing pandemic to give businesses the support they need to adapt and grow their business, and the virtual market is a fantastic initiative, bringing them all together under one roof.

“The choice and range of what’s on offer is really impressive and I would encourage people to shop local where they can and show their support for these local businesses in the run up to Christmas.”

As part of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week programme, Council gave a number of new business start-ups the opportunity to trade at St George’s Market, where they joined regular traders at ‘pop up’ stalls last Friday.

The new businesses set up their stall at the award-winning market, selling everything from fashion to flowers, scooters to silk pillowcases, art, brownies and graze boxes.

For many, it was the first time they had traded.

Isaac Skillen, founder of start-up Bosh Bottles, is taking part again this year, having traded successfully for the first time at last year’s online market.

“There are so many brilliant Belfast businesses who only sell as market vendors and the Buy Belfast Virtual Christmas Market offers a unique platform for businesses to move online and for customers to support local sellers,” said Isaac.

“As a student start-up business during the pandemic, the 2020 virtual Christmas market was a huge boost to the local exposure and sales for us as a firm.

“The best bit about this initiative is happy customers, and happy local businesses - we truly appreciate every single customer who takes the time to consider our products as gifts for their family and friends.

“We are excited for another busy Christmas period and hoping this year’s Buy Belfast Virtual Christmas Market is as successful as last year.”

Maria O’Neill, founder of Pillowboxed, will be selling at the virtual market for the first time, having only started up the business earlier this year.

Delighted to be joining the initiative, Maria added: “Pillowboxed is a silk pillowcase and products company, and we are just six months old.

“We jumped at the chance to be involved in the Buy Belfast Christmas Market.

“It’s such a great innovation to combine online with buy local and will hopefully allow us to discover lots of new customers.”

Any Belfast-based start-up that has been trading for less than three years as of November 2021 can take part in the virtual market, selling your products/services to a captive audience for free.

To get involved, email Jessica Higginson [email protected]

To go shopping search for ‘Buy Belfast’ Virtual Christmas Market’ on Facebook.

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