Northern Ireland is to give adult residents £100 each to spend in their local high street – and not online – in a stimulus plan designed to bring shoppers back to the high street post lockdown.
Details of the scheme were announced as shops reopen in Northern Ireland today from lockdown 3.0. Those aged 18 and over can apply for the pre-paid £100 card through an online portal. The card can only be used in shops and not online. The High Street Stimulus scheme is expected to go live at the end of the summer – if the health conditions are right - with awareness-raising campaigns to be launched nearer the time.
Diane Dodds, economy minister at Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, says: “Today is a day for looking forward. The re-opening of retail outlets alongside outdoor hospitality, self-contained tourism accommodation, swimming pools and gyms under the latest Coronavirus guidelines is another significant milestone as we move out of lockdown.
“I am excited to see shoppers back in our high streets, customers once again enjoying outdoor hospitality and the return of holidaymakers to self-contained accommodation. I am optimistic because reopening of our economy is the most important first step towards economic recovery.
“However, our high street stimulus scheme will provide a timely boost to this recovery. It will provide eligible applicants with a pre-paid card worth £100. This means up to 1.4m people will spend an extra £140m on our high streets rather than online. This has a multiplier effect which will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors.
“We have commissioned research into when the HSS would be most beneficial to our economic recovery. We expect there will be pent up demand following the easing of restrictions. Therefore we believe that the end of the summer is the appropriate time to deliver this spending boost.”
The government is also to release Holiday at Home Vouchers, allowing households to claim back 50% on a stay of two nights or more in recognised accommodation, while vouchers for tourist attractions will give a 50% discount up to the value of £20.
Meanwhile, retailers and other businesses that did not qualify for previous support schemes are now able to apply for £50,000 in business grants. The grants offer financial support to businesses that occupied commercial premises with an NAV (Net Annual Value) over £51,000 at 1 March 2021 and that were awarded the 12-month rates holiday for 2020-21. Applications close at midnight on Wednesday May 5.
Shops are now open across the UK, with those in Scotland opening at the beginning of this week, two weeks after those in England and Wales.