Business

Belfast Christmas shopper footfall down on 2014

Shoppers at the annual Christmas market in Belfast City Hall's grounds

THE number of shoppers taking to the streets of Northern Ireland were lower over the crucial December period than the same month in 2014 - but were much improved after free falling in November.

According to the latest survey by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and Springboard, footfall was 1.1 per cent lower last month than in December 2014.

But that followed November's 7.9 per cent decline in shopper numbers.

Only Scotland reported a rise, albeit marginally at 0.2 per cent.

Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said it had been "a challenging festive period for retailers with the strong pound against the euro as well as the growth of the online market".

"However the fact that footfall was only 1.1 per cent down year on year proves that retailers have met this challenge head on by not only providing great value to Northern Ireland's consumers but a great shopping experience," he added.

“2016 brings challenges especially in the rise of the cumulative burden of taxation and regulation but also opportunities, the biggest of those being the current review of business rates. We need our politicians to have not only the will but the courage to change this outdated tax and make Northern Ireland truly ready for business in the 21st century.”

Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said a "surge in online spending in December clearly impacted heavily on traditional urban retail destinations, the catalyst being the plethora of online discounts on Black Friday which then continued throughout December".

" The drop of 4 per cent in UK high street footfall was the most severe since November 2014, and far deeper than the drop of 1.8 per cent in December 2014, however, high streets in Northern Ireland had greater resiliency, with a far more modest drop in footfall of just 0.7 per cent," she added.

"In contrast footfall dropped by 2.3 per cent in shopping centres in Scotland, despite the fact that with their concentration of multiple retailers they usually considered to be a safe and reliable option for Christmas shopping.

“Much has been mentioned of the ongoing success of retail parks over the last two years in growing their shopper base and – whilst the volumes of footfall in these destinations remain far lower than in either high streets or shopping centres – in concert with online, they clearly represent an increasingly strong draw for shoppers.

"Whilst urban destinations undoubtedly have long term immovable constraints in terms of their built fabric, retailers trading in these locations need to harness the opportunities created by the new shopping reality – a demand for greater convenience, choice and customer service – and deliver offers and environments that excite and entertain shoppers, so incentivising them to abandon the sofa and tablet for the store.”

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