Political row casts shadow on positive retail results

NIRC director Aodh�n Connolly,
NIRC director Aodh�n Connolly,

Northern Ireland’s retailers saw footfall growth in all three destinations, the high street, retail parks, and shopping centres grow for the second month in a row during December, latest figures reveal.

It’s the second month in a row in which the province has seen the strongest footfall growth of all the UK regions the NIRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor said.

Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) welcomed the report.

“It is encouraging to see that for the second month in a row Northern Ireland has led the UK in footfall growth and that this sparkling growth has been across the board in retail parks, shopping centres and, of significant importance, on our high streets.

“This shows that retailers listened to what consumers wanted, and consumers voted with their feet and their hard earned money.”

However, he warned that the political instability was a threat going into 2017.

“With only 2 months to the triggering of Brexit’s Article 50, what we need now more than ever is strong political leadership,” he said.

“As the only part of the UK with a EU zone land border the retail industry here and the hard pressed Northern Ireland consumer will be affected more than anywhere else.

“Our households already have only around half of the discretionary income of our counterparts in GB and that is why we need the Assembly government to make case for tariff free trade to negotiators and to put consumers first in the forthcoming Brexit talks by ensuring their sights are firmly set on keeping shop prices low once the UK leaves the European Union.

“Currently we have no programme for government, nor do we have a budget. What the retail industry needs now is not only certainty but a strategic partnership to deliver, jobs, growth, investment and exports. With other administrations in UK beginning to consider a more coherent approach towards their domestic retail industry we need the NI government to do likewise.

“Our message is simple, our industry and the Northern Ireland consumer cannot afford for political instability to continue.”