Let the Christmas festivities begin not to mention the shopping...

It might not look like much, but it's literally a lifeline for Belfast city centre traders
It might not look like much, but it's literally a lifeline for Belfast city centre traders

Okay, let’s take stock. We’ve made it through a year of Trump, no activity - and no sign 0f activity - up on the hill, RHI and endless, endless debate and rancour over Brexit and we’re still here.

In need of a little collective TLC perhaps, but the biggest thing we need now is some rest and relaxation or R&R for those who like their acronyms two to a sentence.

In other words it’s time to eat drink and be merry, because next year we have to cope with the all the above plus crashing out of Europe without a deal and another general election. Possibly.

Before all that, however, we need some serious retail therapy or to be more accurate our retailers need us to indulge ourselves in some serious shopping.

This week saw the very welcome opening of the walkway that has finally reconnected Donegall Place Castle Place and Royal Avenue after the Primark fire that has now impacted the city centre for three and half months.

On top of that Primark itself repons this morning in the extension to the Bank Buildings store which now awaits a total rebuilf.

No matter, one of the city’s favourite stores and an institution in its own right is back.

The opening of the first Guineys department store in Northern Ireland will also add a new falvour to the mix and if all goes well Belfast traders will have a happy Christmas instead of what looked at one stage to be a very bleak December indeed.

“We would like to commend the hard work of Belfast City Council, Primark, Belfast One and the many other stakeholders who have been working very hard to get us to this point today and we want to remind shoppers that the City is a fantastic place to come in and shop and spend time with friends and family this festive period,” said Rajesh Rana, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

“We look forward to a strong trading period.”

Even Argento founder Pete Boyle, who publicly called for the smouldering remains to be demolished in the immediate aftermath of the fire, was back on message.

“Argento are excited to have reopened our flagship store on Royal Avenue. We hope to see three weeks of strong trading as we are in the midst of the usually busy festive period. Staff are happy to have been able to regain access to the store and welcome city centre shoppers looking for gifts this Christmas.”

So, good luck to Belfast’s retailers and may they all feel the good of the walkway after enduring a bit of a rough time - on top of Brexit, RHI et al.