The tills are ringing as Northern Ireland retailers enjoy feel-good factor
Retailers in Northern Ireland have just had their biggest rise in shopper numbers since Christmas 2012.
A new report published today found a 12.8% increase in the number of people passing through stores here in April compared to a year earlier.
That hike represents the highest recorded growth figure for the high street since December 2012.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium/Springboard Footfall figures suggested a renewed consumer confidence, with the increase in people venturing into stores here dwarfing the UK average, a drop of 0.1%.
NIRC boss Aodhan Connolly said the Northern Ireland footfall figures represented the greatest year-on-year rise across the UK.
"This double-digit growth, combined with it being the second month in a row that we have seen positive growth in footfall across Northern Ireland, is a significant portent to the rise of consumer confidence as well as a more buoyant economy," he said.
The substantial rise in footfall was, in part, a result of a bounce back from a poor performance in 2012, according to Mr Connolly.
"In April 2013 Northern Ireland was only one of two regions across the UK that recorded a decline in footfall (of -4.8%), while in all other parts of the UK footfall increased annually," he said.
"So this result is at least in part a bounce back from a poor result last year. However, the continuing fall of unemployment in Northern Ireland for 15 continuous months as well as a feelgood factor across business means that this could be a sign of a growing economy here."
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said that footfall in Northern Ireland had declined in nine of the last 12 months when compared to the previous year, averaging -2.2% compared with -0.9% across the UK.
"However, with a slight drop over the last three months from 18%, it suggests that retailers are starting to take space in anticipation of a continuation in the upturn in consumer demand."
The BRC/Springboard Retail Footfall Monitor gathers data on customer activity in town and city centre locations, and in out-of-town shopping locations, throughout the UK. The monitor records over 60 million footfall counts per week at over 600 locations in 227 different shopping sites in 142 towns and cities. Springboard gathers vacancy rates in towns and cities via an online survey of town centre managers in 450 locations. The vacancy rate is defined as the percentage of the ground floor units in the town that are vacant and not trading.