THERE is still no indication of when the high street voucher scheme will be distributed to the public across the North of Ireland.
The Department of Economy says good progress is being made on the scheme which was announced last year to support retailers hit by Covid-19.
Individuals could receive between £75-£100 each to spend in town and city centres, with £145m of funding ring-fenced for its rollout.
Non-essential retail in the North of Ireland is set to reopen on 30 April as part of the lockdown-easing measures announced by the executive.
It is understood the pre-paid cards will not be issued imminently.
The voucher would be a huge boost to traders in the Derry City and Strabane Council area which are now nearing the end of their third Coronavirus lockdown.
The scheme is under development by officials and “good progress is being made to bring it to fruition”, according to the department.
Officials want to ensure it is safe to do so and the time is right to stimulate demand and encourage the public to visit the high street.
There is an expectation of a surge in spending at shops due to pent up demand.
Its rollout would be more effective when spending levels off or begins to fall.
Retail NI chief executive, Glyn Roberts said he would like to see July as a target date for implementing the scheme.
“At that point the retail and hospitality sectors will be reopened and more people will be staycationing this year, so July would be ideal time for maximum benefit,” he said.
“We’ve been strongly lobbying for this as an aid to recovery and to promote spending so we want to see it targeted at independent retailers and local hospitality businesses.
“It’s part of a wider reopening plan to get people away from their laptops and iPads and back into the town centre and the voucher scheme is one way to do that.
“There is a lot more work we need to do to get people out again and feel safe to come back to our high streets”
The voucher is a key part of Minister Diane Dodds’ Economic Recovery Action Plan.
The department is also working on a tourism voucher for use at local attractions to boost the struggling sector.
But no date for its rollout has been given as yet.Tags: