Footfall figures on the rise in Northern Ireland despite overall drop across UK
Footfall on Northern Ireland's high streets grew by 4.1% last month, making it the only region in the UK to experience growth, according to new figures.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium-Springboard research for October 28 to November 24 also showed that NI's footfall across all shopping destinations grew by 2.7%, comparing favourably with a UK-wide decrease of 3.2%.
Footfall rose on the high street here from 4.0% in October to 4.1% in November. But shopping centre figures fell by 1.3%.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said NI's stronger figures were due to its more varied retail offer, pointing to "a plethora of independents and food and beverage outlets that have emerged organically".
But she said footfall was down in shopping centres because they tended to be home to the type of retailer which also operated a strong online operation - which customers were choosing instead of in-store shopping.
Ms Wehrle added that NI footfall figures have a history of "volatility", "moving from negative to positive and back again".
"In November last year high street footfall in Northern Ireland declined by -2.6% from a rise of +4.7% the year before, which moved from -7.9% in 2015."
Despite that volatility, NIRC director Aodhan Connolly said the latest figures were still positive news but urged shoppers to support the high street during December.
He said: "This is definitely a more positive set of results for the retail industry with good news figures on footfall with not only sustained growth, especially on our high streets, but for the second consecutive month we are the only part of the UK that has had any increase."
Mr Connolly appealed to consumers to shop on the high street this month. "December traditionally accounts for 12% of retailers' yearly sales and with all the tumult and cumulative pressures of 2018, we need shoppers to come out in their droves," he said.
The Springboard figures were released just after the Primark store opened at the weekend. Accessibility around the cordon put in place after the August Bank Buildings fire has also been improved with a pedestrian tunnel and walkways.
Mr Connolly described the infrastructure as "hugely important in the run-up to our busiest trading period".
"This has been a great week for retail in Belfast. Firstly we had the reopening of the city centre's main thoroughfare which allowed some shops to open and allowed shoppers to easily cross the city centre, and now we have a huge footfall draw of Primark's store opening which will hopefully bring new life to what is being called the cordon quarter.
"This store opening is a testament to the commitment of Primark to Belfast and could not come soon enough. With less than 20 shopping days left until Christmas, we really need to see shoppers on our streets making the most of the great offers."