Every adult in Northern Ireland will be offered a £100 shopping voucher to spend in physical retail stores in the region to boost its non-essential retail sector, after lengthy periods of lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move was announced by Economy Minister Diane Dodds as non-essential retail in Northern Ireland reopens its doors today.
Due to launch at the of the summer as part of a £140m high-street stimulus scheme, the vouchers, which come in the form of a pre-paid card, must be spend in bricks & mortar stores and cannot be spent on betting.
Minister Dodds said: “This is a day for looking forward. I am excited to see shoppers back on high streets, customers again enjoying outdoor hospitality and the return of holidaymakers to self-contained accommodation.
“I am optimistic because reopening of our economy is the most important first step towards economic recovery. However, our high street stimulus scheme will provide a timely boost to this recovery.
“It will provide eligible applicants with a pre-paid card worth £100. This means up to 1.4 million people will spend an extra £140million on our high streets rather than online.
“This has a multiplier effect which will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors.”
The timing of the release of the vouchers at the end of the summer is because pent-up demand is expected to drive sales in the early period after re-opening but that demand may slip later and will need a boost.
Meanwhile Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts is urging local shoppers to support independent retailers as they reopen. “We are making a big, bold plea to the general public to support their local independent retailers as our high streets begin to reopen and we begin the long road towards recovery,” he said.
Aodhan Connolly, head of the NI Retail Consortium, added: “The lockdowns have cost retailers approximately £1billion in lost sales in the past year, and it is vital that they can make their contribution to Northern Ireland’s economic recovery.”