Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's CastleCourt shopping complex posts strong Christmas trading

By Margaret Canning

Belfast's CastleCourt Shopping Centre has said it enjoyed a "strong Christmas trading period".

The shopping centre, which has seen new openings including Schuh Kids and Jack Jones in recent months, said it had benefited from a shift in Christmas shopping habits.

Instead of a last-minute, prolonged slog around the shops, centre manager Paul McMahon said: "More consumers opted to do their gift shopping in a series of regular bursts".

Those regular bursts started before Black Friday at the end of November until Christmas Eve.

And toy retailers also benefited from the blockbuster release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mr McMahon said.

"Helped by a huge resurgence in interest for Star Wars and Lego, our toy retailers including Argos and Toys R Us are also reporting growth above expectations."

He added: "A series of new store openings in 2015 - which included major brands Jack Jones, Schuh Kids and Bon Marche - brought thousands of new customers through CastleCourt's doors this year while our food court registered continued growth in trade and footfall."

Rival Victoria Square Shopping Centre has also reported a positive Christmas trading period, with December 23 classed as its busiest day of trading ever, with 93,500 shoppers.

And outside Belfast, Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon and Newry's Buttercrane Shopping Centre also reported good festive trading. But in contrast to the cheerful assessments of shopping centres, the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce has said footfall throughout the city was down around 2% over Christmas.

That was due to the impact of the strong pound - with many attracted to spend euros in the Republic instead - and to the attractions of online shopping, according to Chamber president Hugh Black.

And Aodhan Connolly, head of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, has said it was a challenging Christmas for retailers across the province.

Mr Connolly said: "Anecdotally, it's been a challenging year due to a number of factors.

"Northern Ireland has come of age as far as online retailing is concerned.

"And the euro rate has encouraged people to go down south to shop."

Belfast Telegraph