The first positive news for high street retailers in Northern Ireland since the summer shows the recovery is under way, businesses said.
Shopper numbers in March were 2% higher than a year ago and significantly up on February’s figures, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) said.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the organisation which represents large corporations such as Tesco and Homebase, said the data was positive and encouraging. He linked it to falling inflation and greater value for money.
Mr Connolly said: “These are the first positive footfall figures for Northern Ireland since July 2013 and they demonstrate the fantastic work that has been done by Northern Ireland retailers to tempt shoppers into their stores.
“Retailers in Northern Ireland are listening closely to their customers and working hard to ensure they deliver what shoppers want.”
He added that consumer sentiment was improving.
“The significant improvement in footfall numbers reflects this much-improved economic environment and bodes very well for the year ahead.
“Retailers will be working hard to keep this positive trend moving forward in Northern Ireland, especially over the Easter period.
“The Government must do all it can to support our retail sector to ensure it continues to go from strength to strength.”