Business

Shopping till we drop... figures show another rise in footfall

SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Footfall in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4 per cent in July - some 5.1 percentage points better than June
SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Footfall in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4 per cent in July - some 5.1 percentage points better than June SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Footfall in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4 per cent in July - some 5.1 percentage points better than June

JULY saw shoppers out in greater numbers across the north, with latest official footfall figures being described a "encouraging".

But as costs for retailers continue to soar, political parties are being urged to publicly commit to freezing business rates.

According to NI Retail Consortium and Sensormatic IQ data covering the four weeks from July 2 to 29, overall footfall in the north increased by 1.4 per cent year on year - some 5.1 percentage points better than June.

Shopping centre footfall rose by 7.4 per cent, again an improvement on the 5.4 per cent increase in June, but the number in in Belfast decreased by 1.6 per cent.

The footfall figures are collected by using precise shopper numbers entering retail stores across the north, while the numbers for retail parks and shopping centres are calculated using numbers to the location (which would include traffic to leisure and hospitality venues within that facility).

Neil Johnston, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “The latest figures mark a considerable improvement on June.

“Consumers in Northern Ireland are still facing considerable challenges from the cost-of-living crisis and the general economically difficult situation, but it seems that they are tentatively returning to the shops.

“This is an encouraging set of figures and hopefully the coming months will see inflation continuing to fall and further improvement.”

He added: “It is essential that government – both at Westminster and locally - avoids increasing costs on retail businesses. It is imperative that business rates are frozen as this will benefit consumers and businesses alike.

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“Even before any possible return to devolved government in the autumn, we would urge all the local political parties to publicly commit to freezing business rates.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, added: “Footfall saw a bounce back into positive figures in July, reversing the slowdown experienced in May and June.

“But while retailers will welcome the uptick in shopper traffic, it will be with a sense of practical positivity. Many will be mindful they continue to serve a cost-of-living consumer, who remains cautious - and may well become more so with the prospect of further interest rates threatening spending power in the mid- to long-term.

“Indeed, our data shows that much of the footfall recovery in July was shored up by strong performance in outlet retail, as shoppers turn to discount formats to make spend go further.

“And this is putting further pressure on retailers, already shouldering the burden of growing price sensitivity, to turn to discounting to drive demand.

“Even in the context of rising price sensitivity, discounting remains just one of many levers retailers can pull. By doubling down on value-driven but experience-led propositions, retailers can build on the store’s revival as the shopping channel of choice.”