Northern Ireland’s shopping footfall continues to lag behind the rest of the UK according to a new report.
Despite showing a small increase in numbers since October this year the NIRC/Springboard Footfall Monitor released today recorded a 2.0 per cent decline in shopper numbers last month which although disappointing shows a significant improvement on the 8.7 per cent fall recorded in December.
Last year it was reported that Northern Ireland had increases of 0.4 per cent in January, 2.4 per cent in February and three per cent in July from the same months in 2012, however, on the whole there has been a decline in footfall both on the high street and in out of town areas.
Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said: “We are starting to see things moving in the right direction in Northern Ireland. The decline in the numbers of shoppers we are seeing has slowed, and while we’ve still seen two per cent less people visiting shops than in January 2013, that’s a significant improvement over the numbers we saw in the final quarter of last year.
“This good news for retailers helps to explain the rise in sales we have been seeing and shows that retailers have done well in pitching their sales and new ranges in January to tempt shoppers in. Despite the wet and windy weather over the month, people have still been visiting our shops.”
Disappointing vacancy rates in Northern Ireland were also reported with 18 per cent vacancy recorded, the highest figures in the UK. While this is marginally improved since last quarter (18.5 per cent) Mr Connolly said there’s room for improvement.
He added: “Empty shops hurt local economies, so there is also good news in the small drop in the number of vacant units across Northern Ireland to 18 per cent. While that number remains high, it is an improvement. To make a larger dent in this problem, it is important for everyone to work together to reduce the costs of operating properties.”