Shoppers gain renewed confidence
Shoppers in Northern Ireland have gained renewed confidence with more people venturing into stores, it was revealed.
A 2.6% increase in the number passing through compared to a year earlier represented a significant improvement, an organisation representing large retailers said.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC), said the footfall was the second highest rate after Greater London.
"There are signs here that after a very disappointing December and January, shoppers are now starting to gain a renewed confidence," he said.
He said this was partly due to the Backin' Belfast campaign, which he dubbed a huge success, as well as the weeks of peace following loyalist protests in Belfast.
"Northern Ireland has a great retail mix with something different to offer in each of our towns and cities," he said.
"However we must not be complacent with what is happening in the high street. We look forward to working with government at all levels in the coming months to look at issues as diverse as car parking, rates, regeneration and planning."
In February shopper numbers in Northern Ireland were 2.6% higher than a year ago, up from the 0.4% rise in January. These figures are considerably better than the whole of the UK, where numbers were up 0.8%.
Business leaders have complained that they lost millions in trade because the Union flag demonstrations deterred people from coming into the city.
Recently the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimated that the flag protests had cost Belfast businesses up to £15 million in lost revenue. Parts of the centre were left deserted as shoppers and commuters hurried home to avoid traffic gridlock and riots.