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Some positive news for Belfast city centre traders

Christmas spending will reach its peak this weekend with retailers buoyed by the news that Belfast footfall is on the increase after a difficult period.

Figures obtained by the Press Association show that in the week beginning December 10, footfall was up 19 per cent on the same period in 2017.

December 14 was the city's busiest shopping day of the year so far.

These figures will come as a huge relief to traders and to the various bodies trying to attract people into the city centre following the devastating Primark fire in August.

In the weeks following the blaze, the city suffered a dramatic drop in footfall.

The absence of Primark was not the only factor. The closure of Castle Junction effectively cut the city centre in two while a safety cordon had a hugely detrimental impact on businesses inside and just outside the barrier.

The building of a corridor joining Royal Avenue and Donegall Place has helped restore pedestrian traffic while the reopening of Primark earlier this month has been a boon to trade generally.

Given the circumstances, what is remarkable is that city centre footfall over the whole of 2018 is actually up five per cent on 2017, which suggests Belfast is bucking the downward trend which has affected high streets generally.

There is no doubt that traditional bricks and mortar businesses are facing tough competition from online retailers and we can expect that to continue.

But after what has been an exceptionally challenging period for Belfast city centre, it is good to end the year on a positive note.

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