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Footfall in Northern Ireland’s retail destinations falls 3% during May

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Footfall in NI shops fell by 11.1% in April, before improving slightly in May with a decrease of 3%, according to the latest figures from the NI Retail Consortium.

The city of Belfast did slightly better, recording a small increase in shoppers of 0.7% in May, a big improvement from a 10.7% fall in April.

Shopping centres across NI began to improve their footfall in May, with a decrease of 1.5% in May a big improvement from the 10.7% fall in April.

The average fall of 3% in Northern Ireland was close to the UK average fall of 3.6%.

Regions across the UK are struggling to get shoppers on high streets and shopping centres, with none of the 13 areas included in the study recording positive footfall growth in the last two months.

Belfast was one of the better performing cities in the UK during May, with only Birmingham recording higher growth in footfall.

Neil Johnston, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said that the figures showed shoppers remained “scarce on the high streets and in other retail hubs”.

“Footfall is continuing to reduce month after month across the UK and this is not good for consumers, retailers or the economy.

“The figures in Northern Ireland weren’t as bad as the overall figure for the whole UK but footfall is still down 3% compared to the same period last year.

“Belfast was one of the few cities to actually record a modest increase in the number of shopper visits.

“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 whilst striving to trade profitably.

“Retailers are playing their part in trying to tempt shoppers however there is more policymakers can do to assist.”

Mr Johnston has called on politicians in Westminster and Stormont to give “clarity on the measures they will take to rejuvenate the high street and the retailing in general.”

“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.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at EMEA for Sensormatic solutions, which helps provide the data, said that May’s figures were “good news” when compared against a “gloomy performance in April, adding that “many will be hoping that this represents a turning point.”

“And, with inflationary pressures easing and household budgets starting to feel a little less squeezed, along with the optimism that may come with the general election in July, many may be hoping the mood music has shifted key into something more positive.

“With lots of opportunities to engage shoppers and benefit from ambient trade from forthcoming major events over the summer, such as the Olympics, retailers may have just cause for cautious optimism that consumers will vote with their feet and head back to the shops in greater numbers.”

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