Retailers’ action call as footfall dwindles further

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

Retailers across Northern Ireland need bold decisions over Brexit and business rates issues if the sector is ever to flourish a sector body has claimed.

Speaking as consumer footfall fell for three consecutive months in Northern Ireland in August.

“This is another underwhelming performance for Northern Ireland when compared to the rest of the UK, with our shopper footfall numbers again being rock bottom of the league table,” said Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, Aodhán Connolly.

Across retail parks, shopping centres and high street, he said the most disappointing aspect was that the province has now seen a full quarter of footfall decline, and at a faster rate of decline than over the past year as a whole. “Tempting shoppers back is crucial, not least to reducing the already high number of vacant premises, and retailers and shopping destinations will be working even harder to attract custom through improving service, ranges, pricing and promotions,” he said.

“However, what we also need is renewed consumer confidence and greater certainty which would flow from the restoration of political leadership and devolved government here in NI.

As the only part of the UK that has a land border with the EU, we also need Westminster to secure a fair Brexit for consumers in Northern Ireland by ensuring that ordinary shoppers aren’t hit with the cost of unwanted new tariffs.

“It is imperative that our devolved Executive gets back up and running and deals with the growing list of issues in their in-tray.

“We need bold decisions taken on the future of the outdated, costly and inequitable business rates system, as it simply isn’t tenable for retailers to form an eighth of the economy yet be forced to stump up over a fifth of business rates.

“We need certainty on a number of business-facing policies in order to allow our industry to invest and provide great value to shoppers, quite simply we need our Executive back to work.”