Retail footfall in Northern Ireland suffers third consecutive year of decline
Shops in Northern Ireland have suffered their third year of decline in footfall with a drop of nearly 6% in December.
According to information body Springboard, high streets and retail parks faced the steepest decline, amid an overall fall of 5.9%. Springboard reported that Black Friday and Cyber Monday brought Christmas trading forward which resulted in a decline over the two weeks leading up to Christmas.
It also blamed cautious spending among consumers and a lowered consumer confidence for the drop in retail visits.
Both the high street and retail parks weathered a 6.4% drop compared with a decline of 4.1% in December 2018. Shopping centre footfall here also dropped by 4.4%, down from December 2018's decline of 3.7%.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, described the overall decrease as a "surprise".
"The challenge for destinations and stores was that the result in December 2018 of +2.2% was a strong comparable that was always going to be difficult to follow," she said. "All of this was despite the occurrence of Black Friday during the December trading month which, in conjunction with Cyber Monday, meant Northern Ireland's footfall only declined by -0.4% in the first two weeks.
"Essentially this discounting bonanza pulled Christmas trading forward, evident from the subsequent drop in footfall of -11.3% over the third and fourth weeks of December which was more than double the -4.6% drop in the same weeks in 2018."
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Ms Wehrle said that restricted spend was felt in all areas with grocery taking a hit of -0.7%.
Shopping for non-food items was also competing with a shift towards people favouring trips for experience or leisure.