Business

Weaker consumer confidence hits footfall at north's retail hotspots

Footfall in Belfast during August was 6.2 per cent down on the same period last year, new analysis shows. Picture by Mal McCann.
Footfall in Belfast during August was 6.2 per cent down on the same period last year, new analysis shows. Picture by Mal McCann. Footfall in Belfast during August was 6.2 per cent down on the same period last year, new analysis shows. Picture by Mal McCann.

WEAKER consumer confidence in the face of the cost crisis is resulting in fewer people being recorded at retail centres around the north, new analysis suggests.

Footfall across Northern Ireland over the July 30 to August 26 period was 4.7 per cent down on the same period last year, according to the data collated for the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC).

Belfast appeared to take a worse hit last month, with footfall down 6.2 per cent on August 2022 numbers.

The NIRC-Sensormatic IQ report did show August footfall at shopping centres was 6 per cent higher year-on-year.

However, that was slightly weaker than July's performance.

While the latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows inflation eased to 6.8 per cent in July, prices are still rising.

“It might be tempting to say that this decline is due to the poor weather, but the truth is that consumer confidence is low due the cost of living crisis,” said the director of the NI Retail Consortium, Neil Johnston.

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“Retailers will be hopeful that consumer confidence will improve over the coming months as inflation eases, resulting in a hopeful bounce in footfall.

“We are now entering ‘mission critical’ territory as we move closer to the ‘golden quarter’ of retail shopping in the lead up to Christmas.”

Mr Johnston said retailers have responded to weaker consumer confidence with incentives and efforts to improve the experience of retail destinations to include more leisure offerings.

“What we absolutely don’t need is a hike in business rates next April,” he said.

“That is why NIRC is calling for a freeze on business rates to support our bricks and mortar businesses which play such an important role in their communities.

“A freeze on business rates would be good news for retailers, for the high street ecosystem, and for all of us who value retail as a mainstay of our local economies,” added the retail chief.

“In the absence of an Executive, it will fall to the Secretary of State to make a decision.

“But regardless of whether we have an Executive or not, it is imperative that the political parties make their positions clear – do they support a freeze or not?

“We need to know.”