Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland high streets and shopping centres hit by drop in footfall

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's high streets have suffered a massive slump in shopper numbers, according to the latest figures released today.

Footfall numbers in June were 3.5% lower than the same time a year ago, according to retail analysts Springboard and the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

And Northern Ireland's high streets and shopping centres witnessed the biggest footfall slump of any region in the UK last month.

Consumer numbers dropped by 1.5% year-on-year on average throughout the UK. Shopping centres were dealt the biggest blow, with numbers down by 5.7%.

That's the third consecutive drop this year.

It's the worst performance since October 2014 and is below the three month average rate of -1.1%.

The latest figures have been branded "decidedly sluggish", according to Aodhan Connolly (right), director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

"Shopper footfall tumbled again in Northern Ireland last month and for the second consecutive month in a row," he said.

"There is no denying the fact that these results are decidedly sluggish, with Northern Ireland recording the weakest footfall figures of any part of the UK.

"Looking forward, retailers will be hoping that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's twiddling of the fiscal dials in the Budget earlier this month will help lift consumer spirits and generate greater levels of confidence and propensity to spend."

All regions across the UK saw a decline in footfall in June, although five out of seven reported footfall above the UK average. The report's authors had previously warned that consumers could be feeling the chill effect of ongoing political and financial instability at Stormont.

But while "not underestimating" the significance of lower numbers of shoppers, Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said the figures should "be taken with a pinch of salt. The only real indication is with sales and money in the tills. It will be interesting to compare these with sales figures," he said.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: "These results are undoubtedly a function of the continuing dilution of shopper numbers through online trading.

"However, the rise in footfall in retail parks across the UK in June is clear evidence that it is still possible to drive up the volume of customers to bricks and mortar stores."

Belfast Telegraph