Retail NI has asked the Northern Ireland Executive to allow independent retailers to operate a click and collect service.
Its call comes as large supermarkets continue to sell clothes, books and toys over the post-Christmas and New Year period while independent retailers remain closed.
The business group has also asked the Executive to extend the Financial Support Scheme to essential independent food retailers who can remain open but who have lost trade and footfall as a result of the majority of the businesses being closed in town and city centres.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is blatantly unfair that local independent retailers who sell books, toys, clothes and homeware are unable to open nor operate a click and collect service while large supermarkets can remain open, sell these products and continue to make substantial profits.
“We have seen significant numbers of shoppers flock to these large supermarkets over the Christmas/New Year period, buying non-essential products while the Executive does not even allow local independent retailers to operate a click and collect service.
“The Executive needs to give these local independent retailers a lifeline by immediately permitting them to operate a click and collect service. Many of these traders will not survive this third lockdown and have already lost vital trading times at the start of December and January.
“Retail NI also wants the Executive to include essential independent food retailers, who have lost trade and footfall, in the Financial Support Scheme. Many of these businesses are trying to trade in town and city centres which are virtual ghost towns, with most of their neighbouring businesses closed.
“With offices, non-essential retail and hospitality closed, custom for these businesses has decreased dramatically and will mean they have no choice but to close, further adding to the challenges of the high street."
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