Belfast Telegraph

Footfall down in March as Easter fails to draw spend from Northern Ireland's shoppers

Aodhan Connolly
Aodhan Connolly
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Footfall decreased in Northern Ireland’s retail destinations by nearly 2% during March — well below a UK average slump of 6%, according to a survey today.

Even the timing of an early Easter in the first weekend of April failed to entice shoppers, a retail analyst said.

The province’s rate of decline was greater than the three month average of 1.2% — and footfall in high streets and retail parks fell at a slightly steeper rate than in shopping centres.

The trend of declining footfall is taking place against backdrop of shop closures.

Last week Carpetright announced it was closing five stores in the province, while Toys R Us, which went into administration last month, announced it would shut the final two of its four shops here.

Electrical retailer Maplin is also shutting down its four shops.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said NI’s relatively low rate of decline compared to the UK as a whole was “hardly a cause for celebration”.

“For 11 out of the past 12 months we have seen a continued decline in footfall in our retail destinations and it’s notable that even the important Easter shopping period failed to bring a return of footfall growth.”

He said shoppers had not been tempted to spend, even though the rate of price increases in shops had slowed down. “As the impact of the pound’s depreciation is fizzling out and the inflation/wage growth gap is finally narrowing, the pressure on consumers’ budgets is beginning to ease. However, that could well prove short-lived with further domestic cost pressures on the horizon likely to see consumers continue to feel a grip on their spending power. That is why it is imperative that the UK and EU agree a clear and frictionless Brexit deal on both tariffs and the movement of goods.”

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