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Covid-19: High street voucher scheme making 'good progress'

By Richard MorganBBC News NI business reporter19 April 2021Image source, PacemakerGood progress is being made on a high street voucher scheme, the Department for the Economy has said. The initiative was announced last year to support retailers hit by C…

  • By Richard Morgan
  • BBC News NI business reporter

19 April 2021

Shoppers in Belfast City Centre in December 2020

Image source, Pacemaker

Good progress is being made on a high street voucher scheme, the Department for the Economy has said.

The initiative was announced last year to support retailers hit by Covid-19.

Non-essential retail in Northern Ireland is set to reopen on 30 April as part of the lockdown-easing measures announced by the executive.

The pre-paid cards will not be issued imminently, it is understood.

Shopper on escalator

Image source, Pacemaker

The scheme is under development by officials and "good progress is being made to bring it to fruition", according to the department.

Officials want to ensure it is safe to do so and the time is right to stimulate demand and encourage the public to visit the high street.

There is an expectation of a surge in spending at shops due to pent up demand, BBC News NI understands.

Therefore its rollout would be more effective when spending levels off or begins to fall.

Retail NI chief executive, Glyn Roberts said he would like to see July as a target date for implementing the scheme.

"At that point the retail and hospitality sectors will be reopened and more people will be staycationing this year, so July would be ideal time for maximum benefit," he said.

"We've been strongly lobbying for this as an aid to recovery and to promote spending so we want to see it targeted at independent retailers and local hospitality businesses.

"It's part of a wider reopening plan to get people away from their laptops and iPads and back into the town centre and the voucher scheme is one way to do that.

"There is a lot more work we need to do to get people out again and feel safe to come back to our high streets"

The department is also working on a tourism voucher for use at local attractions to boost the struggling sector.