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Games 'failed to boost retailers'

The World Police and Fire Games failed to deliver a boost to retailers in Northern Ireland, new research has indicated.

Footfall on the region's high streets fell in August compared to the same month last year, according to figures from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC).

Thousands of competitors and supporters descended on Belfast for the 10-day colourful sporting festival in mid August. The month also saw the Fleadh Irish music and dancing festival come to Londonderry.

But it seems neither event was able to deliver a much-needed shot in the arm for traders.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the hospitality industry may have been the main beneficiaries, with Belfast and Derry's pubs and restaurants experiencing a boost.

But according to the NIRC figures, which were compiled by Springboard customer counting services, footfall on the region's shopping streets in August was down 1.5% on the same month the year before.

That contrasted sharply with retailers' experience in July, which saw footfall rise by 3% on the year before.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the NIRC, called for the region's political leaders to act.

"It's disappointing to see that shopper numbers are down again after showing an encouraging rise in July," she said.

"Key events like the World Police and Fire Games and the Fleadh in Derry attracted over 400,000 global visitors during the August, but despite this major boost to tourism the numbers are back in negative territory, reflecting that our high streets remain in a volatile position.

"Recent months have seen signs of cautious optimism taking hold, but that path to recovery is still fragile. There is a need now for definitive action from the NI Executive to ensure the health and growth of a sector that employs almost 10 per cent of the Northern Ireland working population."

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