City cen­tre shops need ev­ery­one’s sup­port in run-up to Christ­mas

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - By­bri­ankidd Brian Kidd is a mem­ber of the Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors and a part­ner at Frazer Kidd

There was good news for Pri­mark fans last week as the com­pany an­nounced that it would open in its newly built ex­ten­sion unit at Com­mon­wealth House in Cas­tle Street just be­fore Christ­mas.

Its open­ing will take place more than three months af­ter the huge fire which ripped through the ad­join­ing Bank Build­ings in Au­gust.

The cor­don around the site has forced over 20 busi­nesses to close and the im­pact on foot­fall is cost­ing the city cen­tre up to £3m a month.

How­ever, some of the ef­forts to try to deal with the ad­verse re­tail­ing con­di­tions have been im­pres­sive.

The Belfast Tele­graph’s restau­rant critic Joris Minne ini­ti­ated the Belfast Cor­don Busters scheme in sup­port of the be­lea­guered restau­rant sec­tor.

Af­ter con­sult­ing some of the busi­nesses most im­me­di­ately af­fected by the sud­den loss of foot­fall, 10 “restau­rants of the cor­don” were iden­ti­fied and a com­pe­ti­tion set up to en­cour­age the pub­lic to eat there to win an ‘I Beat the Cor­don’ medal.

This proac­tive and pos­i­tive at­ti­tude must be ap­plauded and in­deed sup­ported.

As an of­fice, we at Frazer Kidd are try­ing to en­cour­age our staff to spend a lit­tle bit more time in the city both dur­ing the day and in the evening, re­sult­ing in some of us vis­it­ing re­tail­ers close to the cor­don where we per­haps wouldn’t usu­ally shop.

The man­age­ment of the cor­don is be­ing co-or­di­nated by Belfast City Coun­cil and we un­der­stand that the coun­cil is propos­ing to put in place way-find­ing sig­nage at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions through­out the city to try and im­prove pedes­trian foot­fall.

A new ac­cess tun­nel is also planned to al­low pedes­tri­ans to walk along the front of Bank Build­ings from Done­gall Place to Royal Av­enue.

Although these are pos­i­tive steps by the coun­cil, we all ap- pre­ci­ate that the cor­don must be re­moved as soon as is safely pos­si­ble to al­low the city to be re­in­stated as a sin­gle free-flowing pedes­trian area, al­low­ing our city to thrive.

The Pri­mark fire has un­for­tu­nately added to the ex­ist­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that re­tail­ers face in Belfast in­clud­ing the un­cer­tainty of Brexit and the lack of a Stor­mont Ex­ec­u­tive.

In fact it would not be an over­state­ment to say that re­tail­ers are fac­ing some of the tough­est ob­sta­cles they have en­coun­tered in re­cent years.

The Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors and Ul­ster Bank Com­mer­cial Mar­ket Sur­vey for the third quar­ter of 2018 shows that the re­tail sec­tor across the whole of North­ern Ire­land is con­tin­u­ing to face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges, with an in­crease in the bal­ance of re­spon­dents say­ing that de­mand for re­tail oc­cu­pier de­mand has fallen. So as we ad­dress the ob­sta­cles, let’s not for­get to speak as a sin­gle voice in pro­mot­ing the many pos­i­tive as­pects of Belfast. The fact that Pri­mark was con­sid­er­ably in­creas­ing the size of its store and has pub­licly ex­pressed a de­sire to be open again and com­mence trad­ing as quickly as pos­si­ble is un­doubt­edly a pos­i­tive mes­sage. The fact that Belfast is also con­tin­u­ing to at­tract new re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Seasalt in Arthur Street, Vans and Ne­spresso in Vic­to­ria Square and Mata­lan in CastleCourt is also great news.

On a wider scale, the city is also con­tin­u­ing to ben­e­fit from an ever-in­creas­ing tourism in­dus­try and the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion of the city cen­tre will con­tinue to grow due to the pro­posed cre­ation of new of­fice build­ings, such as The Sixth, which will pro­vide for 230,000 sq ft of of­fice ac­com­mo­da­tion, and the open­ing of the Ul­ster Univer­sity cam­pus, which will bring 15,000 stu­dents and staff into the city.

The mes­sage we should all be com­mu­ni­cat­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the run-up to Christ­mas, is that Belfast is un­doubt­edly open for busi­ness and that the fire at Bank Build­ings, while a ma­jor chal­lenge, has sim­ply high­lighted the strength and re­solve of those who live and work within Belfast city and wish to see it prosper and grow.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.