Footfall in Northern Ireland's shops fell by 9% during February - and this month could be even worse as coronavirus hits hard, according to a report today.
The report by retail monitor Springboard said that any hope of a boost in footfall last month was "washed away" by consistently rainy weather. According to the report, high street and retail park footfall both decreased by 12.4% each.
However, there was a silver lining as footfall to shopping centres declined by just 0.3%, the smallest drop since June 2019 for that category of shopping destination.
Springboard said visits to shopping centres had remained stable as they provided a covered environment in wet weather, and free parking for customers. But Springboard has warned that March could very well change that stability.
"Coronavirus did not have a noticeable impact on footfall in February," said Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director.
"If Covid-19 had been a significant factor then it is likely that all three destination types would have been impacted more equally. However, the month ended before the warning of its increased severity in the UK was made, and so moving forward it is likely that shopper activity will be stemmed as consumers become more wary about interacting in public spaces," she said.
Ms Wehrle said that she expects footfall for the first quarter of 2020 overall to reflect a challenging time for retailers.
However, she added that "experience has proven that footfall bounces back quickly once the immediate period of concern has passed."
Reflecting on February's footfall figures Ms Wehrle said a disparity of 12.1% between the level of deterioration in high street and shopping centres demonstrates the "extreme conditions that high streets have to contend with".