Spend Local cards produced immediate footfall bounce in October - retail body

Shoppers in Belfast city centre. The NI Retail Consortium said the Spend Local scheme helped encourage people back to the high street during October. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

THE £100 Spend Local card scheme made an immediate and tangible difference for the north’s high street during October, a retail body has claimed.

Footfall at retail locations remained below pre-pandemic levels during October, but new data compiled by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and insights firm Sensormatic IQ showed numbers significantly improved from September, putting the north ahead of most other UK regions.

Footfall across the north last month remained 10.8 per cent down on October 2019, but that represented a 5.7 percentage point improvement from the previous month.

In Belfast, footfall was 8.6 per cent behind October 2019 levels, but that was a 13.8 percentage point improvement on September’s performance.

Footfall volume in shopping centres also improved between September and October.

Distribution of the Spend Local cash cards began on October 4, with around 580,000 cards activated by the end of the month, around 40 per cent of the 1.43 million expected to be distributed.

Figures released this week by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said £26.5 million had been spent by card holders during October.

While that represented just 18 per cent of the £143m target to be spent by the extended deadline of December 14, NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said it had already made a difference.

“The couple of weeks of spending that we have had of the Spend Local high street card scheme really have made an immediate and tangible difference to shopper footfall across Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Across NI we have seen a lift of over five percentage points with some towns and cities seeing a welcome surge of almost 18 percentage points of a rise in footfall.”

With around 850,000 cards to be activated and around £116m to be spent in the next four weeks, footfall levels are expected to continue increasing, particularly as we enter the traditional Christmas spending peak.

“We welcome the recent extension to the spending deadline by Economy Minister Lyons until December 14 and hope this continues to give our footfall figures a shot in the arm for the next few weeks,” said Mr Connolly.

“It is obvious that the scheme is already creating that virtuous circle of spending that supports our economy, boosts local commerce, and jobs and gives our shoppers some needed retail therapy.

“We would encourage everyone who receives their card to get out to your local shopping destination and make every penny count.”

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