LOCAL shoppers are the key to tackling the economic downturn which has seen “a business a month” close on the Lisburn Road, it has been claimed.

Balmoral Sinn Féin Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir called upon South Belfast residents to support the ongoing Buy Local campaign by the Belfast Media Group, to help small businesses battle on in the tough economic climate.

He recently made a submission to the Rating of Commercial Properties Review by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, and said both the government and the public could contribute in “rebuilding” the local economy.

“There’s no doubt but that small independent retailers are hurting most during the downturn,” he told the South Belfast News.

“That’s why shoppers should make a conscious effort to shift 10 per cent of their spending from non-local to local independents. Vibrant communities need healthy economies and by spending locally shoppers are creating jobs, boosting entrepreneurship and making their money go further. A pound spent locally has a greater multiplier effect than a pound spent with a multinational or online retail giant.”

Councillor Ó Muilleoir said Belfast City Council’s funding for retailer networks was welcome but that more must be done to help proposals get greenlit and in utilising empty shop stores for initiatives including local markets.

“Over the past 24 months, a business a month has closed on the Lisburn Road, but the retailers are fighting back with a series of events designed to market the unique proposition of this urban village,” he added.

“Whatever the outcomes of Minister Wilson’s review, he deserves to be commended for reminding us of the vital role played by independent retailers in our local economy. The public and other sectors of government need to build on this good work.”