Retail footfall in the province rose by 3.4% in May, the best performance since August 2014 and a significant above the 5.9% decline in April.
The figures released in the latest NIRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies monitor contrast with a 1.1% averrage UK rise and show a welcome but uncertain improvement said NIRC director Aodhán Connolly.
“This surge in footfall of 3.4% is not only in stark contrast to the decline we saw in April but it is by far the best performance across the countries and regions of the UK and is the best result for Northern Ireland in almost two years.
“This is a glimmer of good news for shops in Northern Ireland but due to the continued volatile nature of footfall, we’ll need to see a few more months of data before we can confidently say that the recovery is sustained.”
Retailers of all sizes had been working hard to attract customers with improved ranges, service and promotions, he added.
“We will also continue to work with the new Executive and other stakeholders to ensure clear, bold and effective decisions are made to support an industry which employs over 70,000 directly and more through the supply chain.
“The new Executive must recognise the cumulative burden faced by retailers in areas as diverse as business rates, the National Living Wage and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.”
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director, at Springboard, said:
“May’s increase in footfall of 3.4 per cent in Northern Ireland, whilst in sharp contrast to the average decline from February to April of 4.1 per cent, does not necessarily mark the start of a positive trend just yet.
“However, the good news is that Northern Ireland’s high street footfall rose in each week of the month compared with three out of four weeks across the UK. And the rise over the first two weeks - stimulated by the May bank holiday weekend - was also higher, averaging 7.6 per cent compared with 4.1 per cent across the UK.
“ Even in retail parks across the UK, the destination type with the most consistent long term increase in activity, footfall rose in the first two weeks of the month by an average of 8 % compared with just 1.6% over the second half.