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Responding to the news that Debenhams has gone into liquidation, Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade President, Emma Mullen – Marmion said “The collapse of Debenhams, following so quickly from the Arcadia Group going into administration, is devasting news for the many employees working for the businesses in Newry City.

Hill Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

“This news is a further blow for our retail sector here, who have been scrambling to adapt and prepare their businesses to comply with social distancing measures since March 2020.  Retail is at a tipping point and we need to focus on a recovery plan, for retail in our towns and cities. 

“Speaking to our members today, the news of the roll out of a vaccination programme is very welcome and an opportunity to start thinking positively about a plan for the future. The impact of COVID-19 is expected to take us well into 2021, but we should not wait to the spring to start planning for when COVID 19 is behind us."

The Chamber President feels COVID -19 has accelerated the move to online and undermined some of the biggest brands on the High St while Covid-19 measures have dented consumer confidence.

Ms Mullen Marmion added “Our vibrant Retail and Hospitality Community is at the heart of Newry City life. We still have some very strong national brands and an equally vibrant independent retail sector, as well as a great hospitality offering. We need to plan now for 2021 and think of imaginative ways of encouraging people back into our city centre in the short, medium and long term. “

“Once we reopen again, there are short term opportunities for working with our retailers and hospitality sectors to provide a boost for businesses.  The NI Executive’s recently announced voucher scheme will have a part to play in this.

“To be sustainable, we need a long-term plan built around a combination of leisure, retail and living. Projects like the District Council’s Regeneration Plans and in particular the new Theatre and Conference Centre and the associated public space can be a real game changer for both our daytime and night-time economy.

“Urgency is the key. The NI Executive has announced its High St taskforce, but we still await to hear the details. Newry is a significant part of the North’s retail economy and Newry Chamber is ready to work with the taskforce to ensure the voice of the Greater Newry Area is heard.”

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