Business

Shoppers back on the high streets as retailers brace for trading zenith

Shoppers were out in force again across Northern Ireland in November according to Springboard
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SHOPPERS returned to the north's high streets in greater numbers last month, offering some solace to retailers ahead of the zenith of the trading calendar.

As Belfast city centre gets back to some sort of normality with the reopening of Primark and the removal of part of a three-month cordon in the main shopping district, figures from the NI Retail Consortium and Springboard reveal a positive last month for retail.

They show that Northern Ireland sustained its growth of 2.7 per cent seen in the previous month and for the second consecutive month was the only UK region to show growth.

In the four-week period to November 24, footfall on the high street rose to 4.1 per cent, though shopping centres slid back on numbers.

NI Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said: “This is definitely a more positive set of results for the retail industry with good news figures on footfall with not only sustained growth, especially on our high streets, but for the second consecutive month we are the only part of the UK that has had any increase.

“Added to this we have had the welcome opening of the tunnel in Belfast city centre which has allowed businesses to trade and most importantly shoppers to traverse the main thoroughfare. This is hugely important in the run up to our busiest trading period."

He added: “December traditionally accounts for 12.5 per cent of retailers' yearly sales and with all the tumult and cumulative pressures of 2018, we need shoppers to come out in their droves from Portadown to Portaferry and from Ballinamallard to Belfast.

"Our message is simple. There are great deals to be had and more than ever we need your support.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “While footfall declined by 3.2 per cent across the UK in November, Northern Ireland bucked the trend with a rise of 4.1 per cent in its high streets and a modest decline of just 1.3 per cent in shopping centres.

"Across the UK as a whole the evidence is indisputable in illustrating that that Black Friday delivers no tangible benefit to bricks and mortar stores, with a decrease in footfall in November in in every year bar one and the only increase in 2017 was just 0.2 per cent.

“In Northern Ireland, although footfall was more favourable and indeed positive in high streets, the volatility in footfall which has been commented on previously is still evident."

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