Our support for independent retailers in BelfastBelfast’s independent retailers contribute to the city’s distinctiveness and vitality. We recognise their importance to the economy and, in conjunction with the sector, have developed a range of support initiatives.
These are based on four key priorities:
Capacity building and skills development
- Retail Therapy
We will deliver a practical, results-focused business development initiative tailored specifically for the independent retail sector. Retailers will gain flexible access to specialist mentors and may get a small grant to make an investment in one particular area of their business.
- HARTE (Hospitality and Retail Training through Employment) Programme
We will continue to deliver the HARTE programme which targets 200 long-term unemployed people by providing training and job opportunities in Belfast’s hospitality and retail sectors. The initiative is jointly funded by ourselves and the European Social Fund programme, and supported by the Department for Employment and Learning.
- Retail masterclasses
We will host a series of short, informal presentations and workshops by retail and trade specialists. These masterclasses will aim to raise the skills levels of existing retailers. Themes may include marketing, visual merchandising, selling online, customer service and branding, advertising and promotions.
- Free health and safety advice
If you run a small business in Belfast we can provide you with free advice on how to comply with health and safety law. Our Safety and Environmental Advice Service is independent and confidential and can help you prevent accidents, reduce business costs and become more competitive.
Marketing, promotion and branding
- Collaborative marketing campaigns
We will support local trader groups to develop collaborative marketing campaigns to raise the profile of their retail offerings and increase footfall in their respective areas. Campaigns may include the introduction of customer loyalty schemes or the design and publication of visitor maps or marketing material.
- Online retailing support
We will encourage Belfast’s independent retailers to consider the online selling opportunities for their business in order to achieve a greater volume of new customers, while retaining on street presence.
- Independent Retailer of the Year Award
We will host the annual Belfast Business Awards which recognise the contributions of independent retailers to the local community and Belfast’s retail industry. The Independent Retailer of the Year Award rewards the smaller, or owner, operated type businesses that succeed in this highly competitive market.
- Evening Economy Initiative and Sunday trading
We will encourage our independent retailers to extend and improve opening hours to meet the needs of residents and visitors.
- Support for independent fashion design
We will develop an exciting partnership with House of Fraser to explore the opportunities available for independent fashion designers to have their designs showcased and sold in the House of Fraser department store.
New product development support
- Opportunities for independent retailers through parks and open spaces
We will actively promote using open space and parks within retail districts to host fairs and markets to encourage increased footfall and to promote the use of our areas more effectively.
- Product development support for new designers
We will provide business development, sales and marketing and product development support to the fashion, craft and design sector. We will bring together existing creative businesses working in these fields and new designers from Belfast’s colleges and universities with the aim of networking, identifying new market opportunities and providing a sustainable business infrastructure to the sector.
- Craft Traders Initiative
We will take the lead in establishing a Sunday craft market in Victoria Square to help small craft producers access a new market opportunity by making them visible in an area of high footfall.
- Market sites and street trading
Our markets at St George’s and Smithfield continue to operate at full capacity and sell a wide variety of products including food, clothes, books and crafts – both providing a unique shopping experience to visitors. We will also enhance the quality of the visitor experience in the Cathedral Quarter by promoting high quality licensed trading pitches at Cotton Court, Hill Street and Commercial Court.
Improving the physical environment
- Animation of core trading hubs
We will provide a musical or entertaining ambiance in public places throughout the city such as tourist spots or outside restaurants, cafes, bars and shopping centres. Activity may take the form of simple music performances during the Saturday shopping period.
- Graffiti prevention and removal
We will work with our cleansing team, and other organisations, on graffiti and fly posting issues in the city centre and beyond.
- Dressing of vacant shop units
We will work with landlords and Belfast City Centre Management to encourage the dressing of vacant units and attract the appropriate retail mix to the area.
- Shop frontage improvements
Around 400 small businesses across the city have benefited from our commercial improvement programme with bright new signage, lighting and frontages.
- Transport and car parking issues
We will continue to work with Roads Service and other organisations to find solutions to transport and car parking issues and will encourage transport providers to offer initiatives that make access to retail in Belfast both easy and customer friendly.
- Festive lighting
We will provide support to trader groups across the city to illuminate streets and shopping districts with decorations such as cross-street features, lamppost and wall-mounted lighting, pealighting in trees and building illuminations. Christmas street decorations can help enhance the quality, style and success of streets and shopping districts at the most critical trading time of year for retailers.