Sunshine a ray of light to retailers as sales boom
Good weather has given the local economy an unexpected boost, with shoppers delving deep into their pockets for summer gear.
It's good news for local retailers and it comes after the high street bounced back to sales growth in May as offers and discounts tempted shoppers into stores, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Like-for-like sales were up 1.8% on the same period in 2012, with online spending helping traders to shift stock left over during a slump in April. The BRC figures were a turnaround on the previous month, which saw sales fall at their fastest rate for a year.
The recent sunshine has given retailers hope that things are looking up from a sales point of view, after a sluggish start to the year.
A spokesman for White Stuff, the high-end clothes retailer based in Belfast's Cornmarket, said the good weather has been having a positive impact on sales.
"We have definitely had an uplift in footfall," he said. "There are more shoppers around and they're in a great mood and they're spending a lot more. They're also buying summer stuff as opposed to the jumpers they were buying two weeks ago."
Ulster University retail expert Donald McFetridge said good weather normally gives the economy a surge.
"When it's sunny a lot of people go to the beach if they're off work, but those who aren't will be tempted to pop into the shops at lunchtime," he said. "Sunshine puts people in a good mood and they are more likely to spend money, particularly on items they wouldn't necessarily buy. There is definitely a correlation between feeling happy and spending money and that's a powerful driver for the economy."
Retailers in Northern Ireland suffered enormously since the onset of the Union flag protests last December, which disrupted trading. Millions of pounds were lost after people stayed away from Belfast after the council's decision to restrict flying the flag caused protests.
At Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant, shopper numbers have increased significantly over the last week alone, according to Christie Gregg, IKEA Belfast store manager.
"The Mediterranean style weather has definitely encouraged customers to come into the store," she said.
The rise in temperature has also led to a rise in the demand for summer foods and supplies.
Terry McNeill, store manager at the Tesco's Antrim Road Superstore, said staff have been working hard to make sure the summer food is there for everyone.
"People tend to pop into the store in the evening, when the sun's gone down, and are stocking up on ice cream, ice lollies and ice cubes," he said. "Not surprisingly, barbecues and burgers are flying off the shelves too."