NI tops footfall tables but challenges lie ahead: NIRC

NI tops footfall tables but challenges lie ahead: NIRC

Northern Ireland’s footfall decreased by 10.8% in December (year-on-two-years), 5.6 percentage points lower than November – the shallowest decline in footfall of the four UK nations.

The decline was above the UK average decline of 18.6% (Yo2Y), according to new data from Northern Ireland Retail Consortium.

According to NIRC-Sensormatic IQ data, shopping centre footfall declined by 19.3% in December (Yo2Y) in Northern Ireland, up from -21.1% in November.

In December, footfall in Belfast decreased by -0.6% (Yo2Y), an 3.6 percentage point decrease from November.

Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “Northern Ireland continues to lead the UK footfall fightback for the third month in a row with Northern Ireland’s shop visits being almost 8 percentage points higher than the UK average, although it is not as strong as the previous month.

“Indeed, Belfast in December was over 15 and 20 points better than Cardiff or Glasgow respectively. Our continued footfall recovery is down in no small part to the success of the High Street Card Scheme, something that retailers in Scotland and Wales are keen to replicate given the scheme’s achievements here.

“However, we must be realistic as to the challenges facing our industry in the next few months. We have not had our usual golden quarter where retailers make the sales that shore them up for the tougher months of less spend in January, February, and March.

“There will not be much further spend emanating from the high street voucher scheme so that boost will be missing. The uncertainty with the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations continues to be a concern across the supply chain. However, our biggest concern is of course the safety of our staff and customers as Covid cases continue to rise.”

Mr Connolly said staff absences are rising in line with rising Covid cases, but the overall situation remains manageable throughout the supply chain.

“Retailers are monitoring the situation closely – clearly, continued rising absence rates due to self-isolation will get increasingly difficult to sustain. The retail industry will play its part, but we need shoppers to support us by shopping safely, by wearing a face covering, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing,” he said.

 Andy Sumpter, Retail Consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “While for much of the UK concerns about the rapid spread of Omicron dealt a blow to shopper confidence and retailers’ Christmas trading hopes, as consumers self-policed social contacts and limited shopping trips in a bid to save their own Christmases, Northern Ireland’s footfall remained relatively steady.

“Shopper counts in Northern Ireland were still a tenth down on pre-pandemic levels in the run up to retailers’ most important trading period – however the country fared much better than England, Wales, and Scotland, where footfall dropped to around a fifth down versus 2019.

“With the booster vaccination programme being delivered at pace and some glimmers of hope that the Omicron wave maybe plateauing in some regions, retailers will be hoping that consumers’ cautious optimism remains, and with that a new year’s resolve to continue to support local High Streets and bricks-and-mortar stores.”