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Eat out scheme contributed to spike in Northern Ireland footfall during first week

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was launched on August 3.

THE UK Government-backed scheme to pay half of food bills appeared to help the north record a 7.2 per cent spike in footfall last week, new data suggests.

High street monitor Springboard said the week-on-week change in Northern Ireland (from August 2) was one of the highest across the UK, with only Wales recording a sharper spike of 7.7 per cent.

Footfall in Northern Ireland is still a fifth down on the same week last year, however the 21.6 per cent shortfall was by far the narrowest, with the UK’s footfall slump averaging 34 per cent.

But Springboard said the across the UK, the number of people in retail destinations surged by 18.9 per cent after 6pm last Monday compared with the week before.

Meanwhile, lunchtime visits were up by 9.6 per cent.

The data tallies with a similar measure from Yolt, a money app, which saw a 14 per cent jump in the number of its users paying for meals out.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has put aside around £500 million to pick up half the bill for diners who patronise restaurants during 13 days in August.

Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during the month, the Eat Out To Help Out scheme means that people can get 50 per cent off their bill, up to a maximum of £10.

The deal excludes alcoholic drinks.

Springboard said overall footfall had increased by 3.8 per cent in the UK's high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.

However, it added that comparing the first Monday in August to the last Monday in July is misleading as July 27 was very rainy, pushing down footfall.

Instead it preferred to look at Tuesday and Wednesday, where footfall was down by 0.6 per cent against the previous week at lunchtime, and up 12.2 per cent after 6pm.

Overall, UK footfall rose by 2.6 per cent on Tuesday and Wednesday, lower than the rise of 5.9 per cent on the same days the week before.

Springboard's insights director, Diane Wehrle, said: "The jury is still out regarding the benefit of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme which launched last week, although there were rises in footfall on each day between Monday and Wednesday from the week before."

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