A long-term drop in footfall to Northern Ireland's shopping centres is slowing down thanks to investment in the retail destinations
This was one of the findings in the Springboard January Footfall figures which revealed that a drop of 1.8% in footfall to NI's shopping centres was the most modest since June 2019 when footfall declined by 0.2%. It was the smallest decrease in all UK areas for shopping centre footfall and much lower than the average - 4.5% - over the intervening six months.
Overall footfall in NI during the month of January, which covers footfall on the high street, into shopping centres and retail parks, fell by 3.8% although this compares to an "exceptionally strong comparable" for January 2019, when footfall rose by 3.9%.
Footfall on the high street declined by 4.4%, which was mainly attributed to more consumers visiting shopping centres.
The research said the fruition of shopping centre investment is evident in the figures.
"The gestation period for shopping centre investment can be a long one, but once the chess pieces are finally in place a single owner is often more readily able to deliver meaningful change than a high street."
It added: "This brings some much needed hope for this destination type that has consistently lost shoppers for over two years.
"It seems this is an early sign that regeneration schemes long planned by owners to broaden the offer of malls to incorporate a greater experiential element - particularly in larger malls - are working, and they now better reflect consumers demands. It is likely that this is part of the reason why footfall in Northern Ireland's high streets declined."
Abbey Shopping Centre was one destination benefiting from investment, to the tune of £10m. The cash injection saw the centre attract new Primark and Next stores, a food court, a larger Poundland site as well as a revamped M&S unit.