North’s retail sales hit by political uncertainty

Impasse in Stormont affecting consumer confidence, says survey by retail group

Belfast city centre: The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor records the third consecutive month of decline in shopper numbers in the North

Belfast city centre: The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor records the third consecutive month of decline in shopper numbers in the North

 

Political and economic instability is impacting on consumer confidence in Northern Ireland. The latest retail statistics show another slump in the number of shoppers spending money in the North last month.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor records the third consecutive month of decline in shopper numbers, which fell year on year by 3.7 per cent during March.

Overall in the five weeks up to April 1st there were sharp drops in both on-street and shopping centre footfall of -3.6 per cent and -3.9 per cent. This was in contrast to a jump in shopper numbers across the UK.

Separate survey

Although a separate survey last week by Ulster Bank showed that cross-border shopping continues to deliver a boost to some local retailers in certain locations, Aodhán Connolly, director of the NIRC, warned that the “detrimental effect” of the political impasse at Stormont on local consumers’ confidence cannot be ignored.

Mr Connolly said another decline in shopper numbers was yet another unwelcome development for retailers in what had “been a tough year so far”.

Remain focused

He said businesses have no choice but to respond to challenges and remain focused, and that the retail industry, which employs more than 80,000 people directly in the North and many thousands more through the supply chain, wants to see the same focus from local politicians in finding a solution to current issues.

“We can be unequivocal in saying our industry believes that devolved government for Northern Ireland is worth having and has delivered results.

“We need it back up and running as soon as possible, not only for our industry and others, but for the Northern Ireland consumer who already has half of the discretionary spend of our Great Britain neighbours,” he said.