UNIVERSITY of Ulster business experts are bringing their knowledge to bear on helping rural retailers survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Helping retailers in rural communities to grow is the focus of a University of Ulster workshop event series which kicked off with an event in Coleraine this week.
The workshop event followed on from recent research examining rural retailers’ ability to compete in increasingly difficult market conditions. The research is part of a multi-million pound project - ‘Retail in Rural Regions’ – involving a number of other countries across Europe.
Professor Barry Quinn, who is leads the project with Dr Karise Hutchinson, said: “This workshop is one of many ways that we have identified as being a practical support to our rural businesses, which will have a tangible impact in helping them to survive and grow and subsequently helping to improve service quality in rural communities.”
“This event not only provided retailers with the opportunity to network with other businesses involved in the project, but brought expert speakers to facilitate workshop sessions around the key themes of ‘Understanding your customer’ and ‘Visual Merchandising’. We aim to empower the retailers to target areas for improvement in their own organisations.”
Dr Hutchinson said that this phase of the three-year project is vital in practically delivering training and support to rural retailers across Northern Ireland in order to help them grow their business.
“Rural retailers are facing tough times as a result of the move into urban areas and competition from multi-national retailers and this project seeks to provide advice to shop owners to help them capitalise their business in the current climate.
“As part of the project we want to raise the awareness of rural retailing and its importance to the growth of local communities. Now more than ever before, the plight of the rural retailer and the retail sector as a whole must be brought into sharp focus to enable the necessary investment to ensure the long-term survival of countless jobs in communities across Northern Ireland," she said.
Research assistant for the project Ian Smyth said: “This workshop is the first of several which will seek to address the weaknesses or opportunities for improvement that have been identified by the retailers themselves. Following on from the workshops we will offer practical one-to-one support for the retailer to implement any change projects they want to implement to drive the business forward.”
The Retail in Rural Regions project is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund and European Union’s Northern Periphery Programme.
Ulster’s academics are working alongside European partners in the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Faroe Islands.
For more information on the event or the project please contact Ian Smyth: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 2870 123049