Easter weather blows away hopes of a shopper revival says report

Shopper footfall in Northern Ireland has been down in 11 of the last 12 months
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SHOPPER footfall declined again in Northern Ireland during March - but as a much lower level than the UK as a whole, according to data from the NI Retail Consortium and Springboard.

It means there has been a decline in footfall in 11 of the 12 months.

And even the traditionally busy Easter period failed to lure shopper numbers, the report says.

Overall footfall in the north dipped by 1.8 per cent, less of a decline than the UK decline of 6 per cent. This is a greater fall than the three-month average of -1.2 per cent, but slightly above the 12e-month average of -2.1 per cent.

High street, retail parks and shopping centres all saw footfall decline by 1.9, 1.9 and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

NI Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said: "Whilst the drop in shopper footfall last month was barely a third of that witnessed across the UK as a whole, this is hardly a cause for celebration.

"We've witnessed a continued decline in footfall in our retail destinations and it's a notable that even the important Easter shopping period failed to bring a return of footfall growth.

“This is despite the acceleration of shop price deflation in March, to its lowest rate for a year. As the impact of the pound's depreciation is fizzling out and the inflation/wage growth gap is finally narrowing, the pressure on consumers' budgets is beginning to ease.

“However, that could well prove short-lived with further domestic cost pressures on the horizon likely to see consumers continue to feel a grip on their spending power.

"That is why it is imperative that the UK and EU agree a clear and frictionless Brexit deal on both tariffs and the movement of goods, in order for retailers to mitigate any further pressure on prices for their customers.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, added: “The severe weather put paid to any glimmer of hope for an uplift in shopper activity in March.

"Hitting the week following the pay day weekend was the worst timing possible as it meant that shoppers who had available budget deferred trips. A proportion of this was made up over Easter, with footfall in shopping centres and retail parks rising from last Easter.

"But this was more than offset by the impact of the heavy rain on high streets. Indeed, throughout the month we were able to track the impact on footfall each day as adverse weather moved across the UK.”

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