Spend Local card scheme 'fuels footfall fightback' say retailers

Belfast was the only UK city to see an increase in shopper numbers last month, new figures show. Picture: Mal McCann
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BELFAST was the only UK city to enjoy an increase in shopper numbers last month as the Spend Local scheme fuelled a footfall fightback, figures show.

Fresh data from the NI Retail Consortium and Sensormatic IQ reveals that in the four weeks from October 31 to November 27, footfall in Belfast increased by 3 per cent (Yo2Y), which was an 11.6 percentage point increase from October.

Every other major UK city saw a decline, most in double-digit percentage terms, including Glasgow (down 22.2 per cent), London (-19.9 per cent) and Birmingham (-18.9 per cent).

Overall Northern Ireland footfall decreased by 5.2 per cent in November (Yo2Y), but this was a 5.6 per cent increase from October and above the UK average decline of 15.7 per cent.

And NI Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly attributed the positive numbers to the cash injection provided by the Stormont high street voucher scheme giving every adult in the north £100 of "free money".

“The High Street Card scheme is truly proving its value with a phenomenal bounce back in footfall across Northern Ireland, which has translated into spend, with over £100 million being spent so far,” he said.

“The positive bounce back we saw in October’s figures is even stronger in November, with Northern Ireland’s shop visits being 10 percentage points higher than the UK average and almost 15 percentage points higher than Scotland.

“Belfast had an unprecedented growth of over 11.5 percentage points, bringing it into positive territory for the first time in almost two years.”

Mr Connolly added: “This is a hugely welcome boost for retailers who have had the toughest two years on record.

“We are now well into our golden quarter, where retailers make the sales that shore them up for the tougher months of less spend in January, February and March.

“And there is still time to spend from your card, given the welcome recent extension to the spending deadline by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons until December 14, which we hope will continue to give our footfall figures a shot in the arm for the next few weeks.

“It is obvious 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, and we would encourage everyone who receives their card to get out to your local shopping destination and make every penny count.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “Shopper counts in Northern Ireland reached their highest point so far compared to pre-pandemic levels last month, recovering to minus-5.2 per cent on 2019 figures, as consumer confidence continues to grow and the resurgence in bricks-and-mortar builds back slowly but steadily.”

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