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North's shopping destinations in footfall declines of 'unprecedented magnitude'

Belfast's shopping streets are virtually empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Mark Marlow
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SHOPPING destinations across the north endured declines of "unprecedented magnitude" in April as customers stayed at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figure.

Footfall in Northern Ireland high streets declined by 79.2 per cent last month while numbers at shopping centres plunged by 83.7 per cent, retail analysts Springboard said.

The decline in retail parks was slightly less pronounced at 68.1 per cent due to the presence of essential food stores, but overall, footfall across the north was down by 80.3 per cent taking in all destinations.

The slump was almost double the level of the downturn in March, which posted 41.3 per cent decline as the lockdown came into force part-way through the month.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: "While this is somewhat inevitable given the closure of all but essential stores, it is perhaps indicative of consumers getting into a new rhythm around shopping and working from home.

"Additionally, the overriding focus on safe shopping and the greater emphasis on community that has come to the fore means that trips to larger towns and cities have been curtailed.

"Indeed, it is the first evidence available that suggests how consumers may respond to easing of restrictions.

"In contrast to pre-coronavirus days, when small high streets were facing an increasing struggle to attract shoppers, the path of recovery for retail may well be led by smaller high streets which can offer both safety and community benefits."

The data revealed that footfall shifted away from large towns and cities towards smaller local shopping areas, with the most modest drops in footfall coming in smaller towns or areas.

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