Belfast Telegraph

Belfast shoppers confound the pessimists in face of bombs and political unrest

by Donald C McFetridge

If the latest statistics from Ipsos Retail Performance are anything to go by, it's promising to be a bumper Christmas for retailers and consumers here.

Undoubtedly, the threat of bombs (like last Friday night's) and the recent political unrest will actually put some shoppers off.

However, I believe that consumers here are much more resilient than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

The Ipsos statistics show that " ... the strongest year-on-year growth in December was in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where retail traffic has risen by 11.3% on the same fortnight last year, in contrast to Wales and the South West, where figures are down by 1.8%".

The run-in to Christmas is generally looking good.

Lidl and Marks & Spencer are set to perform exceptionally well over the festive season, while Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda will have to battle it out in terms of price competition.

This is, of course, good news for consumers keen to save on food spending in order to be able to spend their money in other product categories.

Electrical gadgets are flying off the shelves, with iPads, Kindles and various other tablets in big demand.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the furniture, fashion and footwear sectors, where trade is reportedly sluggish and is likely to remain so until the sales begin.

Commentators often place too much emphasis on statistics and footfall reports.

What we need to concentrate on, instead, is encouraging shoppers to visit town and city centres.

Belfast – like other towns and cities across the region – has much to offer.

It's vital that shoppers are afforded the security and safety they deserve in order to be able to enjoy the final shopping days before Christmas.

With the excellent international media coverage of Belfast and the success of the Christmas market this year, it is important to send out the right message to shoppers: Belfast is open for business this Christmas.

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