Tough Christmas for stores as consumers shop online
Belfast suffered an estimated 2% fall in footfall in city centre shops over Christmas, the head of Belfast Chamber of Commerce and Trade has said.
It comes despite Victoria Square saying it enjoyed a pick-up in trade over Christmas, with 93,500 shoppers drawn to the centre on December 23 - its busiest ever day's trading. But the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium has said 2015 was a "challenging" Christmas for shops, as more people shopped online.
In addition, warmer weather curtailed purchases of winter clothes, and the weak euro persuaded some to do their shopping in the south.
Hugh Black, president of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, said he estimated footfall had fallen 2% in December. Separate figures seen by the Chamber from organisation Footfall estimated a drop of 5% in the province as a whole.
"The first two weeks of December were quiet for the city but there was a definite pick-up in the second half," he said.
"However, that was not enough to pull us back on the poor start to the month."
Meanwhile, Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon has said its visitor numbers were up 3% year on year in the full week coming up to Christmas.
Centre manager Martin Walsh said: "The festive period saw exceptionally robust sales for our stores in all sectors, including food, fashion and footwear.
"The overwhelming majority of retailers reported excellent trading - some of which have also reported sales which saw them listed top of their region in their overall store rankings. This is a good indication of just how well the centre has traded."
He said the centre had enjoyed strong sales after Christmas, with some reporting their best day of the year on Boxing Day and Monday, December 28.