Increased shopper numbers are music to Belfast’s ears

City is best in UK for footfall during June, helped by music, cruise and southern visitors

Sting is bringing his 'My Songs' tour to Belsonic next June, with support from special guests Blondie.
Sting brought his 'My Songs' tour to Belsonic in June, with support from special guests Blondie, as music lovers flocked to Belfast, leading to a marked increase in footfall

Events like Belsonic, the arrival of a wave of cruise ship visitors, and an influx of southern visitors looking cheaper food and booze made Belfast the UK’s best-performing city for footfall in the four weeks to June 29, according to NI Retail Consortium and Sensormatic IQ data.

Year-on-year footfall in Belfast increased by 3.7%, which followed a 0.7% rise in May.

And to put that into perspective, over the same period just three other major UK cities posted increases, all smaller than in Belfast, while the likes of Cardiff was down 5.1%, London down 2.5% and Manchester down 0.9%.

For the north as a whole though, the picture wasn’t as bright, with overall footfall down 0.6% while shopping centre footfall dipped by 1.6% in June

NI Retail Consortium director Neil Johnston said: “Although Northern Ireland had negative year-on-year footfall, it performed better than England and Wales and only slighter worse than Scotland.

“Belfast performed the best out of all major cities in the UK, and for the past three or so months the footfall has been very good compared to other cities.

“So, while overall the retail environment remains extremely challenging, retailers in Northern Ireland are clearly working hard to entice shoppers.

“They won’t be leaping with joy at these figures but may be encouraged by them.”

He added: “The Belfast figures will have been boosted by the recent series of concerts and by tourism.

“And in addition to the usual wave of cruise ships, recent times have shown very strong numbers of people coming up from the Republic.

“It’s a fact that food, alcohol and fuel are increasingly competitively priced in relation to prices in the south, so hopefully this will continue to encourage shoppers to come north.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, said: “June’s footfall saw an improvement in performance compared to last month, with the rain finally giving way to drier and sunnier weather and helping to deliver an ambient boost to shopper traffic.

NI Retail Consortium director, Neil Johnston.
NI Retail Consortium director, Neil Johnston.

“But while edging up compared to May, store visits remain marginally down compared to 2023, suggesting recovery in shopper traffic has yet fully to turn a corner.

“Retailers will be hoping that major sporting events on the horizon, including the Paris Olympics, provide positive opportunities to entice shoppers into store.”