North's retailers 'optimistic' on future of high street

Six in ten Northern Irish retailers are optimistic about the future of the high street according to new research
Gareth McKeown

SIX in ten Northern Irish retailers are optimistic about the future of the local high street, according to new research.

In spite of the challenging environment across the UK, which has seen the recent collapse of high-profile chains Toys R Us and Maplin, retailers in the north are confident the tide is turning, according to research from Visa.

The data, released to coincide with the launch of the government-backed Great British High Street Awards, shows that 60 per cent of independent retailers in Northern Ireland describe themselves as 'optimistic' about the future of their local high street, while half of those believe their high street is improving. Looking ahead and four in 10 predict they will see more bars, restaurants and coffee shops on the high street over the next five years.

The view from shoppers though, is less positive, with two thirds stating their local high street is 'staying the same' or 'getting worse', while one in five (22 per cent) said there were not enough shops or services to meet their needs.

When asked about the future, two thirds of shoppers said they felt either 'neutral' or 'not very optimistic' about the high street, despite more than three quarters (75.9 per cent) visiting it at least once a week.

When asked what would encourage shoppers to visit their local high street more, the majority (61 per cent) said additional shops, while almost half (48 per cent) referenced better parking or public transport and a third cited longer opening hours.

Retail NI chief executive, Glyn Roberts said the figures highlight some positivity in the sector.

"Our members are showing a new sense of confidence, but not complacency, that retail trends are moving in the right direction."

“This survey also shows that while local shoppers value local independent retailers, much more work needs to be done to improve and enhance town centres and high streets. The iron rule of retail is that change is the only constant.”

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