Northern Ireland outperformed the rest of the UK in shopper numbers during May but political wrangling is not helping the province a retail lobby has claimed.
Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said the lack of political progress was causing a disconnect in the flow of normal business and planning.
“Although we have seen a very marginal fall in footfall, we have still seen a relatively encouraging growth of 0.7 per cent over the past three months,” he said.
“However the current political and economic uncertainty here, could have an effect on not only consumer confidence but on long term investment decisions.
“Northern Ireland politics has come a long way, however for the second time in less than a year we have seen the political process hit the pause button and this isn’t good for business..
UK-wide, both high streets and shopping centres reported a decline, falling 1.5 and 2.0 per cent respectively.
Footfall in out-of-town locations fared the best with a 1.4 per cent increase year-on-year, an improvement on the 0.5 per cent rise in April and a continuation of its positive trend.
“Many retailers have a choice over where to invest, often elsewhere in the UK or indeed internationally,” said Mr Connolly.
“Anything that makes retailers’ second guess whether they should be investing in Northern Ireland is not welcome.
“It is crucial that our politicians put aside their differences and work collegiately to prioritise the needs of the economy. The political parties should get back round the negotiating table, thrash out their differences and then channel their collective energies into creating the certainty and confidence that will aid retailers and others to invest, expand and create jobs.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: ‘’The drop in footfall of 0.4 per cent in Northern Ireland in May was driven by shopping centres, where footfall fell by 4.8 per cent while rising 1.2 per cent in high streets.
“Unlike the UK as a whole, footfall has risen in Northern Ireland in each of the last four consecutive months, averaging 2.1 per cent, compared with a drop of 2.8 per cent in Wales, -1.0 per cent in Scotland and -0.9 per cent across the UK as a whole.”