High street card fuels footfall fightback in Northern Ireland: NIRC

High street card fuels footfall fightback in Northern Ireland: NIRC

Footfall in Belfast in November has grown by 3% compared to pre-pandemic times, bringing it into positive territory for the first time in almost two years, according to Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

New figures from NIRC-Sensormatic IQ data reveal that Northern ireland’s footfall decreased by 5.2% compared to 2019 – the shallowest decline in footfall of all UK regions.

NIRC said 2020 was a turbulent year in which much of retail bounced between being open and closed, impacting footfall significantly, and to make meaningful comparisons to changes in footfall, all 2021 figures are compared with 2019, before the pandemic.

In November, footfall in Belfast increased by 3.0%, year on two years, an 11.6 percentage point increase from October.

Northern Ireland footfall decreased by 5.2% in November (Yo2Y), a 5.6 percentage point increase from October. This is above the UK average decline of 15.7% (Yo2Y).

However, shopping centre footfall declined by 21.1% in November (Yo2Y) in Northern Ireland, down from -14.3% in October.


Aodhán Connolly, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Director, said: “The High Street Card scheme is truly proving its value with a phenomenal bounce back in footfall across Northern Ireland, and that footfall is being turned into spend with over £100 million being spent from the cards according to Department for Economy figures.

“The positive bounce back we saw in October’s figures is even stronger this month with Northern Ireland’s shop visits being 10 percentage points higher than the UK average and almost 15 percentage points higher than Scotland. Belfast had an unprecedented growth of over 11.5 percentage points, bringing it into positive territory for the first time in almost 2 years.”

Mr Connolly said this was hugely welcome news for retailers who have had the toughest two years on record.

“We are now well into our golden quarter where retailers make the sales that shore them up for the tougher months of less spend in January, February and March. There is still time to spend from your card given the welcome recent extension to the spending deadline by Economy Minister Lyons until 14 of December, which we hope will continue to give our footfall figures a shot in the arm for the next few weeks,” he said.

“It is obvious that the scheme is already creating that virtuous circle of spending that supports our economy, boosts local commerce and jobs and gives our shoppers some needed retail therapy. We would encourage everyone who receives their card to get out to your local shopping destination and make every penny count.

“As well as spending with us, we also need shoppers to support us by shopping safely, by wearing a face covering, washing your hands, maintaining social distancing and using contactless payment where possible, so we can make this a safe Christmas time for all.”

Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “We saw a slight footfall falter in November across the UK, with shopper traffic taking a nominal dip on October’s figures, however, Northern Ireland’s High Street recovery continued.  Shopper counts in Northern Ireland reached their highest point so far compared to pre-pandemic levels last month, recovering to -5.2% on 2019 figures, as consumer confidence continues to grow and the resurgence in bricks-and-mortar builds back, slowly but steadily.”