Belfast Telegraph

Business view: Chilling reality poses threat to sunny spell

By Margaret Canning

If mad dogs and Englishmen are notorious for going out in the midday sun, it seems shoppers are similarly inclined, as retail sales figures show that as the sun shone in June, shoppers were out in their droves.

Good weather and the South African football World Cup - in that chronological order - propelled us into the shops to buy summer clothes, flat-screen TVs, and barbecue food, the figures from the Office of National Statistics would suggest.

That was the reverse effect of snowy weather in January, and again in April, when icy conditions prompted us to stay at home and spend our money on heating oil and gas instead of consumer goods.

Retail sales volumes in the UK rose by 0.7% over the month, while May's sales increase was also revised up to 0.8%.

The growth was driven by household goods stores and department stores.

Northern Ireland was no different, and this year, as with the last two years, shops in Belfast city centre also opened on the Twelfth, an additional diversion for those attending marches in the city centre, and an incentive for others to come into town.

But while the pound rallied in response to the retail figures, some experts are saying retail sales from this month on will be less cheerful reading, as the reality of public sector cuts starts to bite - and that is to say nothing of the chilling effect of increase to 20% VAT upcoming in January.

Border areas like Newry, Strabane and Derry will be less than cheered by figures confirming the slow demise of cross-border shopping by residents of the Republic, thanks to cheaper goods at home and the faltering euro.

Yet running counter to that gloom, there are signs of confidence in Belfast city centre and across Northern Ireland. Single price retailer Poundland has signed up for four stores, and new arrival Blue Inc - a reasonably-priced menswear brand - is opening in five locations. Cotswolds Outdoors recently opened in Castle Lane in Belfast where it could well attract the custom of tourists scheduling a spontaneous visit to the Mournes or north coast.

Let's hope the confidence of Blue Inc and Cotswolds Outdoors is well-founded - and that there is more midday summer sun for us all to shop in.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Popular