Retail especially feeling absence of Stormont Assembly
A retail 'Armageddon' is ahead as Northern Ireland's political vacuum strangles the sector, it has been claimed.
Shopping footfall fell by 5.3% last month, leaving it the worst performing UK region during May, according to a report today.
The data from retail monitor Springboard said it was the sharpest fall in shopping activity since October 2017.
Footfall on Northern Ireland's high streets dropped by 6.1% during the same period, with shopping centres also falling back into decline, dropping 2.8% in May.
The year-on-year decline is in part the result of strong figures recorded in May 2018 shops enjoyed the benefit of a warm spell of weather. But nevertheless, Springboard said May's figures were consistent with recent data showing a decline in retail sales.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, claimed the 6.1% drop on the high street was particularly worrying at a time when one in six store units here lie vacant.
"The Stormont stalemate is strangling the retail industry; with no minister in place to deliver rates reform, our poundage is the highest across the UK by some margin," he said.
Retail is only 12% of the economy, but pays a quarter of all business rates.
"We have no minister to bring forward changes to the apprenticeship levy, which for us is simply a tax because we can't access the funds we pay in.
"And we have no minister to bring stakeholders together to deliver a vision of future high streets, which will look very different to the way they are now.
"The retail industry and our high streets are going through a period of seismic metamorphic change.
"For us to make sure this is retail reinvention instead of retail Armageddon, we need these talks to succeed and to have ministers back at the helm to take the bold decisions needed," Mr Connolly added.