Shopping centre footfall improves... but are they spending?

There was a slight improvement in footfall figures for shopping centres in Northern Ireland last month according to fresh data
Gary McDonald Business Editor

RETAIL bosses say there has been a "promising improvement" in footfall in Northern Ireland’s shopping centres over April, which included Easter.

But it comes with a caveat that latest NI Retail Consortium-Sensormatic IQ data only captures store visits, rather than reflecting what’s being rung through the tills.

The figures confirm that overall footfall across the north decreased by 11.7 per cent last month (Yo3Y), which was 2.8 percentage points better than March and better than the UK average decline of 13.1 per cent.

Shopping centre footfall in the north declined by 12.4 per cent in April (Yo3Y) but this eclipsed the 19.7 per cent decline in March.

NIRC spokesman David Lonsdale said: “April saw a more promising set of figures for visits to stores in Northern Ireland, with a second successive monthly improvement.

“Buoyed by the easing of Covid restrictions and the return of commuters and tourism, the uplift in shopper footfall was particularly noticeable in our city centres and shopping centres.

“Of course, one swallow does not make a summer, and it remains true that visits to stores are still somewhat shy of pre-pandemic levels.

“But this does suggest that indicators crucial to the health of Northern Ireland’s retail industry are beginning to point in a more favourable direction.

“The challenge will be to sustain this improvement in the months ahead as economic headwinds affecting both consumer and business sentiment and spending power exert their grip.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, added: “At face value, this is all positive and welcome news for retailers as footfall in Northern Ireland continues to recover, but doesn't mean people were spending.

“As shoppers feel the pinch of the rising cost-of-living and face downward pressures on their disposable incomes, conversions and basket sizes risk being reduced, so retailers – especially non-discounters or value brands - will need to work even harder to earn share of wallet and shopper loyalty in-store.”

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