Shoppers scarce as north’s footfall slips back again

Belfast is one of few UK cities to record modest increase in retail visits during May

footfall figures fall again
Retail NI vice-chair Paddy Doody and Stormont finance minister Caoimhe Archibald launch the 2024 High Street Hero Awards at Parliament Buildings

The fickle nature of retail in the north was underlined again over the last four weeks as industry figures reveal another decline in footfall numbers.

Data by Sensormatic IQ for the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) covering the four weeks from April 28 to May 25 shows that overall footfall across the region decreased by 3% year on year (slightly better than the overall UK decrease of 3.6%) while shopping centre numbers were down 1.5%.

But one bright spot in May was that footfall in Belfast increased by 0.7% - a significant improvement on the 10.7% decline in April.

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

NIRC director Neil Johnston said: “This month’s figures show that shoppers are scarce on the high streets and other retail hubs across the country, which is not good for consumers, retailers or the economy.

“With the general election campaign under way, this is the ideal time for those who aspire to occupy Number 10 and to form the next government to give us clarity on the measures they will take to rejuvenate the high street and retailing in general.

“The figures in Northern Ireland weren’t as bad as the overall figure for the whole UK, and Belfast was one of the few cities to actually record a modest increase in the number of shopper visits.

“But while there is rarely an exact correlation between footfall performance and retail sales growth, these figures will be a worry as shopkeepers contend with greater outlays on statutory costs while striving to trade profitably.

“We hope that, come the autumn, we will have a fully functioning Executive with a clear Programme for Government and an administration at Westminster with a fresh mandate. Both need to have clear agendas to avoid adding to business costs and to find ways to boost economic growth.”

Meanwhile the Northern Ireland public is being encouraged to vote for their favourite local independent retailers and high streets in the 2024 High Street Hero Awards, voting for which runs from July 1 to 31.

Run by Retail NI and supported National Lottery operator Allwyn, SSE Airtricity and Roam Local NI, votes can be cast across 13 different categories - best butcher, best coffee shop, best convenience store, best deli-bakery, best fashion retailer, best forecourt, best generalist retailer, best healthcare retailer, best homeware retailer, best off-licence, and best independent retailer employee, as well as high street of the year and best overall independent retailer (full details at

A record 12,000 votes were cast last year to establish the north’s retail elite last year, with Ballymoney being named high street of the year in a tight race with Belfast’s Shankill Road and Newtownards.