Burnt-out Belfast store has ‘drastic’ effect on retail footfall

Consumers 30% less active in North’s city since Primark flagship outlet fire in August

Charred Primark store in Belfast city centre: safety cordon around site has split  busiest thoroughfare and the city centre in two.

Charred Primark store in Belfast city centre: safety cordon around site has split busiest thoroughfare and the city centre in two.

 

The massive fire which destroyed Primark’s flagship store in Belfast nearly two months ago has had a “drastic” impact on Northern Ireland’s retail sector and resulted in a major slump in shopper figures.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium show the number of people shopping in Belfast has fallen by more than 30 per cent since the fire. Belfast is the North’s busiest shopper destination.

Aodhán Connolly, the industry group’s director, says the major safety cordon erected around the site of Primark’s fire damaged building in the heart of Belfast city centre has “effectively split Belfast’s busiest thoroughfare, and the city centre in two”.

“This is distressing not only for Primark and the 14 businesses within the cordon who cannot open,” Mr Connolly said, “but also those in the locale who are affected by the footfall drop and their suppliers.

Structural change

“We need the [UK] chancellor in his forthcoming budget to make a tangible difference, not only to Belfast but to the whole retail industry in this current time of structural change.”

According to the new data, published on Monday, the dramatic fall in shopper numbers in Belfast following the August 26th fire dragged overall footfall in the North down by 4.6 per cent in the five weeks to the end of September 29th. This was a much higher rate than the 1.9 per cent average average drop over the last 12 months.

High streets and retail parks are taking the brunt, with footfall in these areas 6.1 per cent down, year on year, the figures state.

Apart from the fire, the data also points to changing spending patterns. Consumers appear less keen to spend and are concentrating on paying down existing debts and saving for the Christmas period.