More retail woe in September as shopping centres are hit hardest

Shopper numbers were down again in Northern Ireland in September, according to NI Retail Consortium/Springboard figures
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SEPTEMBER was another dismal month for retail in the north, with footfall down again, this time by 3.1 per cent.

And the situation was particularly bad for shopping centres, where numbers declined by 5.5 per cent, the worst since April 2018 and making Northern Ireland the worst performing of all UK regions.

NI Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly conceded that it was yet another disappointing month and was reflective of consumer spending over recent months.

He added: “It's no surprise that retail sales growth was in the red in these latest figures. Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather.

“The ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers. Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours, and it is vitally important that the UK does not leave the EU without a deal.

“The fact Northern Ireland households have half of the discretionary income of those in GB means we will feel any cost rises hardest.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, which gathers the data, said that in the UK as a whole, the vast majority of the footfall decline emanated from the last week of September when the country was hit by exceptionally heavy rain.

“But in Northern Ireland the more severe drops were in the early weeks of the month when the weather was most favourable. To provide some context, in the last week of the month in Northern Ireland footfall dropped by 3.5 per cent versus a drop of 6.1 per cent across the UK. This suggests that the decline in footfall is more structural, and not simply a function of adverse weather conditions.

“Given the monumental changes that have occurred in our retail trading landscape over the past decade, it is unsurprising that the long-term footfall trend is a downward one.

However, with 80 per cent of spend remaining in store there is still much for bricks and mortar stores to play for in the next quarter, which includes the all-important festive trading period.”

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