The Summit was hosted by BBC broadcaster Tara Mills and featured panel discussions with Executive Ministers on the Assembly’s future economic priorities ahead of May’s election.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar TD, NIO Minister of State Conor Burns MP, Shadow Levelling Up Minister Alex Norris MP, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA and Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA all addressed one of the largest ever attended high street conferences.
The conference considered key strategic documents including the recent High Street Taskforce Report which sets out proposals for the transformation required to revitalise our local high streets.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD told business leaders attending the Summit that the future of retail is hybrid, with both brick-and-mortar and online stores crucial in high street regeneration. Virtually addressing attendees, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment pointed to the pandemic as ushering in a third way of doing business under a new and improved hybrid model.
“Two years ago, none of us could have predicted the terrible consequences that Covid-19 would have on our previously bustling high streets and shopping centres. From business closures to stay-at-home orders, necessary public health measures meant that, while our population was protected, many bricks and mortar traders were devastated. Many adapted quickly, moving online, setting up delivery services and finding other ways to hold on to their customers.”
“Now as we emerge from the pandemic and rebuild, this conference is a really good opportunity to share our experiences and find ways to work more closely together for a strong, prosperous all-island economy. I strongly believe that the future for retail is hybrid with physical stores and on-line shopping providing a new and even better retail experience.”
Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Conor Burns MP, spoke about the UK Government’s vision for the high streets of Northern Ireland and how the Levelling Up funding will help the regeneration of the high streets. Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, Alex Norris MP, also spoke on the UK Government’s recent White Paper and how levelling up can be delivered on a local level in Northern Ireland.
Head of Real Estate in Northern Ireland at DWF Law, Julie Galbraith said:
“We were thrilled to partner with Retail NI for its Future High Streets Summit. Our town and city centres are thriving hubs of innovation and growth, best evidenced through Northern Ireland’s ever-growing independent retail sector. Supporting our high streets does not just boost jobs and economic activity, it helps build stronger communities that work together to improve livelihoods and build prospects. It was great to get speaking to those business and political leaders in attendance at this excellent Summit.” Hear more of Julie's thoughts here:
The flagship event concluded with a keynote address from Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar on the challenges facing the North-South economy. For soundbites from Leo Varadkar TD, Glyn Roberts, Deirdre Hargey MLA, Connor Burns MP, Alison McCullagh, Alex Norris MP and Helen Wall, please click here.
If you require any advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Julie Galbraith.