Politicians needed to take critical decisions

Rates and the Apprenticeship Levy are two areas where action is needed

Retail footfall grew by 0.5% across the province in August, but any satisfaction in the gain is lost in growing frustration over political failure to tackle key issues a spokesman for the sector has claimed.

“The fact that we have topped the table for UK footfall this month is positive however it is likely to prove of little comfort as it comes when we have the more dubious milestone of reaching 600 days without a working government here in Northern Ireland,” said Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

“While retailers have bought around £4 billion of NI agri-food and our consumers have made around 18 million retail transactions during this period, our politicians at Stormont have done nothing to take the mission critical decisions that our industry and our shoppers need.

“While Scotland is cracking on with implementing changes to its rates system, NI has seen no change to its antiquated system that is an impediment to investment.

While others can access the huge monies paid into the Apprenticeship levy and in Scotland they have a flexible skills fund, here the levy is simply a tax on business.

The longer this goes on the longer we will fall behind our neighbours to south and east with no retail strategy, no retail lead official and no protection for our shop workers. In short this political stagnation is making NI a much less attractive place to do business.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at analysts Springboard

“Northern Ireland was the only area of the UK in which footfall rose in August, an improvement on the -0.3% in July. However, footfall in both months is significantly down from the increase in June when footfall rose by +3.6%.”

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