Retail NI raises trading issues at Tory conference

Secretary of State Karen Bradley with Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts
Secretary of State Karen Bradley with Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts

The urgency surrounding trading in Belfast city centre in th ewake of the Primark fire has been highlighted at the Conservative party conference with a call for immediate action.

Speaking at the DUP Reception at the Birmingham event, Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts told Secretary of State Karen Bradley and other cabinet ministers attending ed the reception at Birmingham that suppport to deal with the crisis was one of several key issues.

“Following the Primark fire, Belfast City Centre is facing its greatest crisis since The Troubles,” he said.

“Over a thousand jobs and over two dozen businesses are at risk. We urgently need a city centre rejuvenation fund in place to prevent this from happening.

Crucual to Belfast and the rest of the province, he said, was action on rates.

“Rates reform is absolutely critical to the future of the economy. Many small traders that we represent are struggling to pay their rate bills and we are calling for the largest ever rate relief of £100 million to support our town and city centres and to ensure small business owners can reinvest more of their own money into growing their business and employing more staff.”

Mr Roberts comments came as the latest retail statistics to emerge show retail prices have increased for the second consecutive month.

The British Retail Consortium – Nielsen Shop Prince index for September 2018 showed that, after five years of deflation, shop prices increased again over the year before.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) director, Aodhán Connolly, said: “This is going to make things harder for our households who have already less than half the discretionary spend of our neighbours in Great Britain.”

“We also face a perfect storm with this growing inflation and as the only part of the UK with a Eurozone border with a cliff edge Brexit fast approaching.

“Our message is clear, we need a Brexit deal that protects our NI consumer from costs, should they be customs, tariffs or checks. This brinkmanship is hurting consumers and business.”