NI footfall falls for second successive month as consumers tighten their belts

Footfall has fallen in the north for a second successive month according to Springboard
Gareth McKeown

RETAIL footfall has fallen in the north for a second successive month, with a dip in shoppers reported across the board.

The latest Springboard industry figures show overall footfall dropped by -2 per cent in Northern Ireland in July compare to an increase of 0.5 per cent in July 2016. This was however a slight improvement on the June rate (-2.6 per cent), but below both the three and twelve month averages.

Footfall slumped at all three three locations in Northern Ireland in July for the second consecutive month as a fall of -2.3 per cent was recorded on both the high street and retail parks, with a drop of -1 per cent

seen in shopping centres.

The town centre vacancy rate for the north fell marginally from 14.4 per cent in April to 14.3 per cent in July, but crucially this remains higher than the UK average, which rose to 9.6 per cent last month.

Northern Ireland retail consortium director Aodhán Connolly said the figures made for grim reading.

“This is a rather cheerless set of figures, heralding a second successive monthly dip in shopper footfall numbers and with the quarterly shop vacancy rate remaining high. Indeed, shopper footfall fell last month at a more pronounced rate of decline than witnessed over the past three-month period as a whole."

"Encouraging shoppers back is crucial to reducing the number of vacant premises, and retailers and shopping destinations are clearly going to have to work harder to attract custom through a blend of improvements including service, ranges, pricing and promotions. However, a more concerted effort is required from public policy to reduce the cost of doing business. Restoring devolved government here in Northern Ireland would mean we could crack on with recasting business rates for the decade ahead, in order to deliver a reformed system and lower tax burden which would increase retailers' confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres," he added.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard believes July's results may mark a sea change in consumers' willingness to spend.

"A -6.2 per cent drop in Northern Ireland's footfall post 5pm in July – far greater than the -0.5 per cent across the UK - is clear evidence of a tightening of purse strings on casual dining and leisure trips," she said.

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