Northern Ireland consumers still prefer shops to online option
Shoppers in Northern Ireland still flock to the high street more than any other retail option, a study has shown.
Research by Deloitte turns the view that high street shopping was in decline on its head with the majority of Northern Ireland consumers "voting with their feet".
The research from the business advisory firm revealed that despite the boom in online shopping, over half of Northern Ireland consumers said they still preferred the high street for top-up grocery shopping, banking and buying clothing and footwear.
This is despite a 19% year-on-year increase in online sales right across the UK – worth over £5bn per annum.
The news also comes as the CBI reported buoyant sales in the first part of December led to a lacklustre performance in autumn.
David Crawford, partner at Deloitte in Belfast, said: "This news will bring some much needed Christmas cheer to many high street retailers across Northern Ireland.
"Many believe the high street is in decline but these figures would suggest the contrary.
"However, it's important that we continue to invest in our local town centres to ensure their longevity. Without the support of local consumers, high street retailers would be forced to cease trading."
He added: "Our research further found that internet sales are steadily increasing and so it's important that local retailers make the most of online opportunities too.
"High street businesses in Northern Ireland need to embrace digital technologies and integrate them within their overall strategy, in order to attract and retain consumers in the longer term, by improving their overall experience.
"The research shows that convenience continues to be the main factor that draws people to the high street, and so retailers need to capitalise on this strength and make the high street retail experience one that shoppers will want to keep coming back to, time and time again."
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said though consumer behaviour in Northern Ireland had changed in recent years toward embracing online retailing, high streets remained their favoured destination.
"It's good to know that this report has shown they are still looking at the high street as destination retailing."