April rise in retail footfall not seen on the high street

RETAIL footfall grew in April for the first time in 2017, but was down almost two per cent on the high street from 2016

RETAIL footfall grew in April for the first time in 2017, but the vacancy rates in the north are now the highest out of all UK regions.

The new Springboard figures from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium show a marginal 0.1 per cent growth in footfall last month on the same period in 2016, but crucially a 1.9 per cent fall on the high street.

The overall increase was based upon a 5.4 per cent rise in footfall to shopping centres and against a decrease across the high street and in retail parks.

The modest growth is well above the three-month average of -2.7 per cent and the twelve-month average of -0.4 per cent, but any enthusiasm is tempered by a rise in the town centre vacancy rate.

This rose to 14.4 per cent in Northern Ireland in April from the 14 per cent in January and is the highest rate of all UK regions and well above average (9.3 per cent).

Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Aodhán Connolly said the results were a "mixed bag" for local retailers.

"The unwelcome but modest rise in the Northern Ireland shop vacancy rate is still significant when you take into account the tiny growth in footfall.While any growth in shopper footfall is welcome, this has been largely driven by our shopping centres which had the strongest growth across the UK. With the positive distortion because of a late Easter, these figures should really have been better," he said.

Mr Connolly said the current political impasse was causing economic uncertainty for the both industry and consumers.

."To be frank, it is high time for Northern Ireland's politicians to get back round the table, thrash out a governing arrangement and crack on with delivering reformed rates, providing leadership on Brexit, and making Northern Ireland a more competitive place to do business. The current stalemate is not delivering for anyone," he added.

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