Surviving the high street is a series of regional Ulster Bank Boost events providing the opportunity for local business owners to discuss the challenges facing local high streets and draw from the recent experiences of successful operators on how to prepare for the future.
The series kicked off at the Clandeboye Lodge, Bangor, this morning (Thursday, February 28), where retailers from across the north Down area were invited to come along and hear how Ulster Bank is supporting the local high street.
Last year proved turbulent for the UK’s retail sector following a string of prominent high street retailers announcing cost-cutting measures including store closures and job losses.
The Ulster Bank Boost series aims to provide industry insight into the changing face of consumer-facing retail and encourage local retailers to be future-ready.
Attendees will hear from a panel of industry experts about optimising SEO to boost footfall and the support available through local chambers of commerce and Retail NI, the business organisation for the independent retail and wholesale sector in Northern Ireland.
Recent figures from the British Retail Consortium reveal almost 70,000 retail sector jobs were lost in 2018, and that 29 per cent of retailers plan to reduce staff numbers in the coming months.
In recent weeks Marks & Spencer revealed plans for the proposed closure of its store at The Junction, in Antrim, and Tesco, which operates 50 stores in Northern Ireland, has announced a major shake-up of its fresh food counters in its latest round of cost-cutting measures.
These announcements follow what was a challenging year which witnessed the closure of major retail outlets across Northern Ireland, including Toys ‘R’ Us, Maplin, Mothercare, Blue Inc and New Look.
Ulster Bank is seeking to equip retailers with the knowledge and resources they need to continue to adapt to changing consumer preferences and perceptions of the high street, as Cara Taylor, Business Growth Enabler at Ulster Bank, explains: “It is no secret the past 12 months were difficult for many trading on the high street.
“Our local high street retailers are facing increasing pressure as consumer shopping behaviours continue to shift more towards online marketplaces.
“Yet there are some great examples of businesses that are diversifying their offering and adapting to this shift in consumer habits to demonstrate greater value, service and in-store experiences for consumers.
“Ulster Bank is seeking to equip local retailers with the skills and knowledge they need to match these best-in-class examples, attracting local shoppers back into town centres to uncover quality and variety of offering available in towns and cities across Northern Ireland.
“Ulster Bank Boost is one of the many ways we are working to support local business owners and entrepreneurs to start-up and scale-up their business ideas and adapt to the ever-changing face of the high street.”
Other events in the series take place in Lisburn (March 14), Enniskillen (March 28) and Port-adown (August).
n For more information and to book your place, contact Cara Taylor at Cara.A.Taylor@ulsterbank.com