FURTHER cross-community cooperation in encouraging shoppers to “Buy Local” can benefit all quarters of Belfast, it has been claimed.

The South Belfast News and its sister papers, the Andersonstown News and North Belfast News, are continuing the campaign to boost small businesses. Connections have been made with groups across the city to spread the Buy Local ethos and also learn tips from other successful projects dedicated to tackling recession.

One group now liaising with Buy Local is the Belmont Traders Association in East Belfast, who have been running their own “Shop Local” campaign which has had a huge impact in their area over the last few months.

This included a fun day organised by the traders and involving local community groups and churches which gave a huge boost to struggling retailers fighting to keep shoppers from choosing big name supermarkets over local stores.

The Belfast Media Group recently handed over thousands of signatures to Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, calling for big chain stores to pay towards easing the rates burden for smaller outlets.

Belmont Trader’s chair Kieran Hill said his organisation would be willing to speak with other local traders groups to share ideas and strengthen a citywide campaign to get shoppers spending locally.

“We have been able to get some funding from Belfast City Council for our events and the fun day we held before Christmas was a great success, and a very visible way to spread the message,” Mr Hill said. “Beforehand, we spoke with local businesses, churches, and even the local fire station to get as many involved as possible. On the day we had hundreds of helium balloons marked with a ‘Shop Local’ logo. To make things a bit more eye-catching, we adopted a Victorian dress theme and a local group who perform candlelight walks in honour of local literary legend CS Lewis agreed to hold a parade on the day too.

“With so much community cohesion, it was a huge success, and shopkeepers noted a boost in their takings. We would be more than happy to work with groups and traders in South, West and North Belfast, as the recession is a problem, that recognises no boundaries or community and religious differences - we’re all in this together.”