A ‘Celebrate Independent Fashion Showcase’ will launch Belfast Independent Retail Week (BIRW) next month and ‘A Mad Hatters Tea Party’ will mark the end of the initiative which runs from 5-11 March.
In between Belfast independent retailers will also be participating in a Visual Merchandising and Customer Care competition, shopping promotions and other in-store events.
Customers will get the opportunity to win Grainne Maher necklaces, a mountain bike, a Designs Satchel, and a Swedish massage.
Retailers are getting behind Belfast City Council’s efforts to boost trade and improve service in the independent retail sector with more than 160 signing up for the first ever Belfast Independent Retail Week.
This runs from 5-11 March and while celebrating the range and quality of the independent traders in Belfast, aims to raise their profile by highlighting quality neighbourhood shopping across the city.
Alderman Christopher Stalford, Chairman of Belfast City Council’s Development Committee, said: “This is a tough economic climate for everyone but independent retailers in particular need a boost because they don’t have the resources that larger chains can call on. Many are one person or family businesses which employ small numbers but small businesses are the backbone of our economy, they are what differentiate one city from another and they are a vital service in local communities.
“We want to help them promote their service and encourage customers to recognise the importance of supporting independent retailers. It is satisfying that so many local retailers are signing up to participate in this initiative which covers not just the city centre but those neighbourhood areas in all quarters of the city.”
The Fashion Event is a flagship catwalk show to promote independent fashion designers, retailers and jewellery makers and will take place in the Great Hall from 12.30pm-1.30pm on Monday 5 March. Independent retailers will also be offered the chance to have a pop-up shop in City Hall.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on Sunday 11 March is a family event to showcase food products from Belfast. Families will be invited to follow a Mad Hatter’s food trail, enjoy storytelling and children’s craft and play along the way.
Tickets for both events are free and are available from Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau.
A series of workshops are also taking place in the run up to BIRW to enhance key skills within the independent retail sector. This includes customer care, creating fabulous displays and loyalty schemes, why retailers should be trading online and using social media to drive custom.
Students from Belfast Met will be helping shops create displays and these will then be judged during BIRW. Councillor Stalford said: “By involving students we are also providing some hands on experience that will be invaluable when they come to look for work.
“It also emphasises that we are working very much in partnership with the retailers and service trainers as well as business forums across the city. We want independent retailers to know that we place value on what they provide and we are happy to support them in whatever way we can,” added the Councillor.
More information on BIRW is available on www.belfastcity.gov.uk/retail