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Shops plea

Holyrood urged to follow NI’s retail voucher scheme

Shoppers in masks

A voucher scheme may entice shoppers (pic: Terry Murden)

A Scottish retail chief is calling on the government to follow Northern Ireland’s example and introduce a voucher scheme to help shops.

Irish Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced £95m will committed to the initiative to allow shoppers in the province to use a pre-paid card.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) last month called on Scottish Ministers to consider a similar scheme. Others have been introduced in Malta and Jersey to help shoppers and stores during the pandemic.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “The pandemic-induced restrictions and economic downturn have weighed on consumer demand, with retail amongst the most affected sectors.

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“Shopper footfall is down by a third, shop vacancies are at a five-year high, and Scottish stores have missed out on £2.5 billion of revenues over the past eight months.

“The forced closure of so-called non-essential stores under the existing local lockdowns over the next three weeks is likely to see these stores miss out on a further £270 million of income. 

“Scotland’s shops will ultimately only survive with the patronage of the public.

“Retailers are playing their part in trying to tempt shoppers, but policy makers here need to think more creatively too about how they can reignite and stimulate consumer confidence and entice people back to our retail destinations.

“This could be through free parking for the fortnight prior to Christmas, once non-essential shops are permitted to re-open, or a retail voucher scheme to help stores and high streets through the leaner winter months in the early part of the new year.”



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