Retail spending grows to a new record
Pessimists have been proved wrong by figures showing the highest UK retail spending since records began, according to the manager of Belfast city centre.
Andrew Irvine was commenting on data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which disclosed a 3.5% rise in retail sales volumes in May, the highest since January 1986. Quarter-on-quarter growth was 1.8% up while sales over the last three months were 5.4% higher than in the same period in 2007.
Mr Irvine said the figures showed a healthy retail sector regardless of the downturn in financial and other markets.
"While there is no doubt that consumers are tightening their belts, the announcement is a clear demonstration that a retail sector which continues to offer quality and value for money has nothing to fear.
"The strong performance also shows that the doom and gloom merchants are wrong. I know from speaking to retailers in Belfast that sales continue to be strong and that consumers in the city are still spending.
"While we continue to be hit by rising fuel and food prices, retailing outlets who continue to offer quality and value for money will continue to do well."
And he refuted the claim that the strong performance was a "blip" due to good weather.
"May's performance is the strongest month on month increase since records began and I know for certain we've had hotter years than this one. In addition, the three-month year-on-year sales are up 5.4%, an excellent performance by any yardstick. I am sure that the recent opening of Victoria Square and expansion of the product offering in Belfast mean we will continue to enjoy strong retail sales in the city centre," he said.
Sales in predominantly food stores in the three months coming up to May rose by 2.6%. Sales volume for predominantly non-food stores increased by 6.2% while sales for the non-store retailing and repair sector rose by 16.9%.
Last week market research company Experian predicted that £920m would be spent in Belfast this year.