North’s shopping centres gain footfall at expense of high streets

Shopping centres in North show strongest footfall growth across UK in April

Although shopper footfall in Northern Ireland grew overall by 0.1 per cent during April, the number of people visiting high streets fell. Pictured: Derry.

Although shopper footfall in Northern Ireland grew overall by 0.1 per cent during April, the number of people visiting high streets fell. Pictured: Derry.

 

There were more empty shops in Northern Ireland last month than in anywhere else in the UK as shoppers chose to visit shopping centres for their Easter outings rather than their local town-centre high streets, according to the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC).

The trade association’s latest research shows that although shopper footfall grew overall during April by a modest 0.1 per cent in Northern Ireland, the number of people visiting high streets and retail parks fell.

Shopping centres in the North, which attracted a 5.4 per cent increase in numbers, showed the strongest growth figures in footfall across all of the UK.

According to the latest Footfall and Vacancies Monitor Northern Ireland’s town-centre vacancy rate rose to 14.4 per cent last month, well above the UK average of 9.3 per cent and officially the highest rate in the UK.

Political uncertainty

NIRC director Aodhán Connolly said the figures were “something of a mixed bag for NI’s retailers”.

He said: “With the positive distortion because of a late Easter, these figures should really have been better. The current domestic political uncertainty is leading to economic uncertainty not just for our industry but for Northern Ireland consumers.

“To be frank, it is high time for Northern Ireland’s politicians to get back round the table, thrash out a governing arrangement and crack on with delivering reformed rates, providing leadership on Brexit, and making Northern Ireland a more competitive place to do business.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director with retail consultancy Springboard, which compiled the report, said footfall in the UK as a whole in April grew by 1.6 per cent.

“Footfall generally was fuelled by the weakened pound, driving both an increase in overseas tourists and in Easter staycations amongst domestic visitors,” she said.

“The underlying structural shift towards leisure-focused trips meant that whilst high-street footfall rose by 1.9 per cent during retail trading hours, trips to high streets post 5pm increased by more than 3 per cent. The issue for Northern Ireland is how it can capitalise on these trends.”