Warning as number of high street shoppers tumbles
The number of high street shoppers in Northern Ireland was 5% lower than a year ago, retailers warned.
February was the weakest performance since November, and by far the worst of any of the countries and regions of the UK.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium called for more Government support and blamed high taxes and minimum wages for the slump.
Director Aodhan Connolly said: "It is time for Government to realise that our sector needs their support if we are to continue to invest, create and sustain jobs and grow the supply chain.
"We need the devolved Executive to recognise the cumulative burden faced by retailers in areas as diverse as business rates, the National Living Wage and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.
Policy makers must support retailers to allow us to continue to invest and play our part in a strong recovery here in Northern Ireland."
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard researchers, said: "The drop in footfall again last month is consistent with long term underlying trends identified by Springboard from tracking activity across destination types, geographies and time periods."
She said visits were becoming increasingly focused out of town and in the early evening.
Mr Connolly added: "The fact that there was a significant drop in footfall in February shows the volatile nature of the retail market in Northern Ireland.
"This is the weakest performance since November and is by far the worst performance of any of the countries and regions of the UK."