Northern Ireland shops hit by steep drop in footfall

The poor weather has been a factor in the poor May trade figures
The poor weather has been a factor in the poor May trade figures

Footfall in Northern Ireland’s shops fell by more than 5% last month, the largest decrease recorded across the entire UK.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said the 5.3% decline was the worst the Province has experienced since October 2017.

Footfall on our high streets also fell by 6.1% between April 28 and May 25, again the steepest decline in the UK.

Aodhán Connolly, director of Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the situation underlined the need for Stormont to return.

He said: “This is a significant decline and the worst that we have seen in two years. Particularly worrying is the fall of over 6% in footfall on our high streets at a time when one in six of our shops are already lying empty.

“The time for encouraging words by government has passed and now we need action. The Stormont stalemate is strangling the retail industry; with no minister in place to deliver rates reform, our poundage is the highest across the UK by some margin.

“Retail is only 12% of the economy but pays a quarter of all business rates. We have no minister to bring forward changes to the Apprenticeship Levy, which for us is simply a tax because we can’t access the funds we pay in. We have no minister to ensure more protection for our shopworkers, as is proposed in Great Britain. And we have no minister to bring stakeholders together to deliver a vision of future high streets, which will look very different to the way they are now.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director of the firm Springboard, said the footfall decline was consistent with the drop in sales during the same period.

However, she pointed out that the poor weather in May was a factor in the comparison with 2018.