'People's Vote' is a chance to stand up for retailers and back our high streets

Economy minister Diane Dodds helps launch the People's Vote campaign, watched by (from left) Gareth Burnside (Camelot), Irish News marketing manager John Brolly and business editor Gary McDonald, and Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts. Photo: Hugh Russell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

IN recent weeks we've clapped for the carers, for our incredible health service, and for all other essential workers in what was a powerful and emotional show of unity, bringing the nation and regions together.

And from today it's time to stand up for - and recognise - our retailers, those men and women who keep us fed and watered, suited and booted, entertained and connected.

For the second year running, Retail NI and the Irish News are teaming up to uncover our favourite local independent retailers via a ‘People's Vote', where readers have the ultimate say on the best of the best.

Our campaign, which last year attracted thousands of votes, has been endorsed by Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds, while Camelot is the keynote supporter of Independents' Day.

It's been a torrid time for retailers, whether independent or chain, bricks-and-mortar or e-commerce, start-up or legacy.

But with Covid restrictions lifting, retail is back in vogue as the heartbeat of our high streets, and consumers can tell us who gives them the most exemplary retail experience, and who has made their store a theatre.

As independent retailers begin to re-evaluate spaces, it's perhaps texture, light, sound and smell which is taking centre stage (remember, many of our strongest memories of shops are not visual, but embodied).

From today until July 31, readers have the opportunity to let those independent traders know just how much they are treasured via this People's Vote.

All you have to do is go to and vote for the local shop that means most to you and your family.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “There's never been a more important time to celebrate and acknowledge local independent retailers as we work through the Covid-19 crisis.

“Many Retail NI members made a huge effort to ensure communities had food and other vital products available to them at the height of the pandemic.

“As we now start along the long road of recovery, we need consumers to support independent retailers to boost our high streets and the rebuilding of our local economy.

“July will now be Independents' Month, the biggest ever showcase of our amazing world class local independent retailers and the huge contribution they make to our local communities, high streets, and local suppliers.”

Irish News marketing manager John Brolly said: “We are delighted to partner with Retail NI on this initiative, in asking the public to support their local independent retailers.

“We have always valued our local retailers but now more than ever is the time to thank them for stepping up and serving their communities during the recent pandemic. Shop locally and vote for your favourite retailer. We can all play our part in helping our local economy.”

Minister Dodds said: “From the earliest days of this pandemic, retail workers have been at the front line in delivering an essential service to the people of Northern Ireland.

“Many shops remained open during lockdown and quickly adapted their premises to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.

“I know how hard everyone in the retail trade has been working, and these Independents' Day awards provide the opportunity for us all to say thank you. I encourage people to vote for their favourite retail outlet.”

Camelot's retail director Jenny Blogg added: “It has never been more important to recognise and celebrate local independent retailers, many of whom have been instrumental in helping communities get through the pandemic.

"We are delighted to be able to get involved in Independents' Day 2020 to help highlight some of the fantastic independent retailers who continue to serve communities day in, day out.

"I thank Retail NI members for the continued support shown to Camelot, The National Lottery and the Good Causes it supports - particularly over the last few months.

“In total, up to £600 million in National Lottery funding is being directed towards charities and organisations across Northern Ireland and the UK to help tackle the impact of the pandemic."

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