Primark is to inject £500,000 into the support fund established to help traders in the wake of the blaze that destroyed its store at Bank Buildings last month.
As the cordon around the burnt out shell continues to impact the retail life of the city, the firm restated its commitment to the city centre and said it was its intention to be “back up and trading again as soon possible”.
“As well as re-establishing a high street presence in the city, Primark is committed to supporting the business community affected by the fire,” the firm said in a statement.
“Primark will be donating £500,000 to Belfast City Council’s recovery programme as a gesture of goodwill.
“The Council will manage the distribution of the recovery fund to those local businesses impacted by the fire.”
Fourteen businesses remain closed as a result of the cordon and many more are suffering a loss of trade due to the lack of access through the critical junction.
The main concern of traders is the warning that the cordon could remain in place until the new year with the inevitable ompact on Christmas trading.
In the statement, the firm said it had been focused on the welfare of staff while working with the authorities regarding its “on-going commitment to businesses and the wider community in Belfast”.
“As you can appreciate, we are at the early stages on this and will confirm details as soon as possible.
We hope that this will assist the on-going efforts to drive footfall into the city centre.
As we progress our plans, we will continue to work with the authorities in Belfast. We would like to thank people once again for their on-going support.”
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “This is a very welcome announcement from Primark and will contribute to the wider City Recovery Investment Fund, which the Council is currently establishing, and which will be considered by members of the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday (Sept 21).
“Primark is very keen to support small businesses in the city centre – in particular those that have been severely impacted by the fire. The company has asked Belfast City Council to distribute this funding on its behalf.
“Belfast City Council is developing a City Recovery Investment Programme which includes immediate, medium and longer term proposals to support businesses, re-establish and sustain high levels of trading the city centre in the lead up to Christmas and beyond, increase connectivity across the city centre, ultimately ensuring the city’s economic resilience. The contribution made by Primark will be an important part of that overall programme delivery.”
In a joint statement, Rajesh Rana, president of Belfast Chamber, Glyn Roberts, CEO of Retail NI, and Colin Neill, CEO of Hospitality Ulster, said: “We are pleased that Primark listened to our call to contribute to the recovery fund and we welcome this donation of £500k.
“Whilst this is a step forward, we now need to see NI Government Departments and HM Treasury step forward and make a sizeable contribution to the City Centre Renewal Fund.
“Many of the Castle Street traders and other businesses in the city centre are experiencing huge reductions in trade and footfall. Over a thousand jobs and dozens of businesses are at risk unless we see immediate action.”
NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said: “This generosity is more than a mere gesture by Primark, it shows genuine concern for their neighbour traders and the surrounding areas.
“They have put their money where their mouth is and this will make a huge tangible difference. We hope that the city council and central government will now step up and support the local area in the same effective way.”