Call for expansion of support grants as retailers report significant drop in footfall

Retail NI has said the four week lockdown of hospitality businesses has significantly hit high street footfall. Picture by Mark Marlow.
Ryan McAleer

THE trade body representing the north’s retailers has urged the Department for the Economy to expand the scope of its new business support measures to include shops hit by the latest round of Covid-19 restrictions.

Retail NI has said some shops have reported a 60 per cent drop in footfall in the wake of the four week ‘circuit breaker’ for hospitality and close contact businesses.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced a new package of grants on Thursday for some businesses unable to get support under last week’s rates-based scheme.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy’s £35 million Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) provides between £800 and £1,600 per week for businesses legally required to close for the four-week ‘circuit breaker’.

But the scheme is based on businesses which pay non-domestic rates on their premises.

Under the new Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme announced by Ms Dodds, traders legally forced to cease trading, but left out of the LRSS, can apply for £600 per week.

Under a second tranche of payments, businesses in the supply chain that are not legally required to close, but have been “significantly impacted” by the restrictions, can apply for grants equal to half the LRSS, depending on the rateable value of their premises.

Those with a net annual value (NAV) below £15,000 qualify for £400 per week, while those in premises with an NAV above £51,000 qualify for £800. Those in between will get £600 per week.

Supply chain businesses not in a rateable premises, but suffering due to the restrictions, can apply for £300 per week.

Retail NI’s chief executive Glyn Roberts said some shops have reported a significant loss of trade and footfall on the back of the latest lockdown of hospitality businesses.

“We have reports that some of our members have lost as much as 60 per cent as a result of lost footfall,” he said.

“We have raised this issue with the Department for the Economy. Retail NI has a number of ministerial meetings next week and we will be urging the Executive to provide more support for these impacted retailers.

“There is already huge pressure on independent retailers and I worry that the closure of hospitality could be the last straw for these businesses.”

The Economy Minister said on Thursday that two further grant schemes are being planned, with the first expected to address tourism and hospitality, with a second for self-employed traders unable to get support under the Treasury’s grant scheme.

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