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High street footfall figures boost Northern Ireland retail hopes

Published 19/10/2015

Footfall in Northern Ireland shops has improved slightly, despite "stubbornly" high numbers of vacancies, a new report has found.

Even though the volume of shoppers in September was 0.7% lower than a year ago, it was the best result for the nation since May.

The September figure was an improvement on the 2.4% fall in August.

Good autumn weather and an additional bank holiday trading day have been cited among the main reasons for the rise.

However, Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC), said more must be done to stabilise the market.

He said: "Although this is our best footfall result since May 2015, it is still a fall of 0.7% and the 12 month average is still -1.2%.

"This shows very clearly the volatile nature of the retail market in Northern Ireland.

"Retail has made a clear commitment to Northern Ireland but for us to continue to invest, grow employment and bring great value to consumers here, we need government to support us."

The figures were published in the monthly NIRC-Springboard Footfall Monitor.

Mr Connolly said retailers wanted "fundamental reform" of business taxes to make the industry a "keystone in the economic recovery".

Across the whole of the UK, footfall was down 0.2%.

Northern Ireland and Wales saw the greatest level of improvement leaving Scotland behind for the first time since July 2013.

Meanwhile, vacancy rates in Northern Ireland were 17.3% last month.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard which helped compiled the study, said some owners were filling empty outlets with pop-ups.

She said: "Northern Ireland's vacancy rate of 17.3% reported last month remains stubbornly high, but offers owners the opportunity to market their empty units to pop-ups.

"With more property owners now comfortable with marketing their empty units to pop-ups, flexible leases are becoming increasingly available, helping to bring much needed brands into empty space.

"Indeed, the take-up by pop-ups elsewhere in the UK, alongside the improvement in high street footfall, demonstrates that this increased 'newness' is providing lapsed high street shoppers with a reason to visit."

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