Number of shoppers in North rises despite Primark fire
New retail figures show the high street is the most popular destination for NI shoppers
Castle Court shopping centre in Belfast: the number of people shopping in some parts of Belfast has plummeted by more than 60 per cent since a major fire devastated Primark’s flagship store.
Shopper footfall grew across the North by 2.7 per cent, according to the latest Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) figures over the four weeks to the end of October.
This was substantially healthier than in the UK as a whole where overall retail sales fell by 2 per cent over the same time frame. The most popular destination for shoppers in the North last month was the high street where shopper footfall rose by 4 per cent.
Although the Primark fire has forced some retailers in Belfast to close in recent weeks, Northern Ireland now has its lowest shop vacancy rate – at 13.3 per cent - in more than two years, according to the NIRC.
However, the number of people shopping in some parts of Belfast has plummeted by more than 60 per cent since a major fire devastated Primark’s flagship store in the heart of the city at the end of August, the retail figures show.
Latest industry figures from the NIRC and Springboard highlight there has been a significant drop in shoppers spending money in Belfast city centre while at the same time there has been an increase in the overall number of people shopping in towns, cities and shopping centres across the North.
Aodhán Connolly, NIRC director, said it is clear from the research that the impact of the Primark is still “weighing heavily” in Belfast and that some nearby towns and cities are benefitting from a “displacement factor” as shoppers go elsewhere.
“The fire has essentially cut the heart of the city centre in two .With Christmas only weeks away it is imperative that shoppers come back to the city centre in their droves to ensure the survival of these traders,” Mr Connolly added.
Many businesses in the city have blamed the impact of a safety cordon that has been erected around Primark’s former store in Bank Buildings for the fall off in shopper numbers.
Plans to reopen
Belfast City Council has granted Primark planning permission to rebuild its Belfast store and has said that in the meantime a new temporary walkway is going to be in place “within weeks” and that it is supporting businesses in the meantime. Primark also plans to reopen in Belfast in Commonwealth House on December 8th.
A spokesman for Belfast City Council said: “The council is continuing to work with eligible businesses worst affected by the Bank Buildings fire to enable them to apply for funding to aid their financial recovery. This process is on going and it is anticipated it will be completed by November 19th.”