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Northern Ireland High Street Voucher Scheme: Calls for public to back independent and family-run businesses

Shoppers are being urged to support independent and family-run businesses through the NI High Street Voucher Scheme when it launches at the end of the summer.
It was announced on Friday that every person in Northern Ireland aged 18 and over will be eli…

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Shoppers are being urged to support independent and family-run businesses through the NI High Street Voucher Scheme when it launches at the end of the summer. It was announced on Friday that every person in Northern Ireland aged 18 and over will be eligible to apply for a pre-paid card worth GBP100 to spend in their local high street. The scheme, which is a vital part of the Economic Recovery Action Plan, is designed to stimulate local businesses, including retail and hospitality sector outlets, following the pandemic.

Glyn Roberts, Retail NI Chief Executive, told Belfast Live he was "delighted" to hear more details when he met the Economy Minister Diane Dodds on Friday. But he said it was important the scheme was promoted to encourage the public to spend the money with independent and family-run businesses. "It is important that message gets out to the general public," he said.

"It was good to get the detail on reopening day, I think it has added to what I hope will be the start of the long road to recovery." He said that money spent with independent retailers has a ripple effect, going on to support local producers and farmers. When meeting with retailers and customers across the country on Friday, Mr Roberts said there was a "real determination" from the public to support local following the pandemic, which he said was good to see.

"I think the intention is for local family-owned businesses and independent retailers to benefit [from the scheme]," he said. "We made the appeal for people now returning to stores to make the effort to support independent retailers, they have been hit hardest over lockdown. "We need to get behind our local independent retailers."

Mr Roberts added: "I would hope the general public will rally to support their local independent retailers and local hospitality businesses through the scheme." Eligible individuals aged 18 and over will be asked to apply for the pre-paid card through a dedicated online portal. The card must be used in 'bricks and mortar' businesses within Northern Ireland and cannot be used online.

Mrs Dodds announced that, if conditions are right, the High Street Voucher scheme will open at the end of the summer. Speaking on Friday as shops reopened, Mrs Dodds said: "The reopening of our economy has started in earnest and I am delighted to see retail outlets alongside outdoor hospitality, self-contained tourism accommodation, swimming pools and gyms begin trading again under the latest Coronavirus guidelines. "After a long winter, we can now look forward.

Shoppers are now back in our high streets, customers are once again enjoying outdoor hospitality and we are seeing the return of holidaymakers to self-contained accommodation. We still have much ground to cover but economic recovery is on the horizon and the reopening of so much our economy today an most important move towards it. "Northern Ireland takes another step towards normality today.

It is vital that this momentum is maintained. Every one of us can play our part by following the guidance to ensure a safe as well as an enjoyable experience." Earlier the Minister revealed further details on the High Street Stimulus (HSS) and Holiday at Home Voucher schemes which will boost economic recovery.

She said: "The High Street Stimulus and Holiday at Home Voucher schemes will provide a timely boost to our economic recovery. The HSS will provide eligible applicants with a pre-paid card to the value of GBP100 which will deliver a much-needed cash injection of over GBP140m to boost retail, hospitality and other sectors. "And the Holiday at Home Voucher scheme will allow Northern Ireland households to claim back 50% off a stay of two nights or more in certified accommodation, up to the value of GBP100.

Vouchers will also be issued, offering 50% off visits to attractions or tourism experience providers, up to the value of GBP20."

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