16/02/2010

Belfast Retailers Offered Masterclasses

Belfast City Council is launching the next round of a popular business development programme 'Retail Therapy'.

Open to all independent retailers across the city, it offers support and assistance on promoting their businesses to make them more competitive and profitable in today’s economic climate.

The Council is also running a series of Retail Masterclasses at The Edge in Belfast with the first class taking place on Wednesday 3 March to support independent retailers in Belfast.

The programme is open to 30 retailers and will cover areas like business planning, staff recruitment, marketing and customer service.

Each participant will be assigned an experienced business mentor to help them prepare a business audit and develop an improvement plan tailored to their business needs.

They will receive a small grant to help them put their plans into action. As well as a mystery shopping exercise being applied to each business, retailers will have the chance to network and meet other retailers taking part in the programme.

The six Retail Masterclasses will focus on a specific theme presented by an expert in their field.

Councillor William Humphrey, Chairman of Belfast City Council's Development Committee, said: "I know that the Retail Therapy Programme and the Retail Masterclasses will prove an important and practical development for the independent retail sector in Belfast.
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"Both initiatives will build on other successful business programmes being run by the Council across the city and serve to promote our commitment to fostering growth within our retail industry so that they may better cater to the needs of our local population and visitors alike."

Nicholas Lestas, Partner with Lestas Consulting, who are delivering the programme, said: "We are delighted to be managing this programme on behalf of Belfast City Council as we believe that we can assist retailers to examine the issues important to them, review what they are doing and how they are doing it.

"We are very much aware that this is a challenging time for retail and it is important that businesses take time to examine their approach and stay abreast of the changes happening."

Commenting, Jocelyn Reynolds from the Orchid Lingerie shop on the Lisburn Road took part in a previous round of the Retail Therapy Programme. She said participating in the programme had been "invaluable".

"What has been helpful is the element on the programme relating to PR and marketing my store to reach out to a wider customer base," she said.

"We have published a glossy brochure featuring some of the lingerie, nightwear and beachwear available in our shop and our sister store, The Lingerie Room, in Dungannon," she said.

"We have also expanded our mastectomy range and published mastectomy brochures which are available in most of the main breast clinics," she said.

The closing date for applications for the Retail Therapy Programme is Monday 15 March 2010.

For more information on the business development programme, contact Nicholas Lestas from Lestas Consulting on 028 7032 2900 or Belfast City Council's Economic Development Unit on 028 9027 0736. or see: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/businessprogrammes/retailtherapy.asp

(BMcC/GK)

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