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New statistics show further slump in number who went shopping in North last month

Mon, Aug 14, 2017, 00:00

Francess McDonnell

Town-centre shopping streets and retail parks in the North suffered the biggest fall off in potential shoppers, with both recording a fall of -2.3%

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One out of every seven retail premises in Northern Ireland is currently empty, according to new statistics which also show there was a further slump in the number of people who went shopping last month.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor show overall consumer footfall dropped by -2.0 per cent in July in the North compared to an increase of 0.5 per cent in July last year.

Town-centre shopping streets and retail parks suffered the biggest fall off in potential shoppers with both recording a fall of -2.3 per cent.

The latest report also shows there was a significant drop of -6.2 per cent in shopper footfall after 5pm in July which it states is “clear evidence of a tightening of purse strings on casual dining and leisure trips”.

Vacancy rates in the North also hit 14.3 per cent in July – significantly above the average UK vacancy rate for the UK which was 9.6 per cent last month.

Aodhán Connolly, director of the NIRC, said the “cheerless set of figures” show shopper footfall fell last month at a more pronounced rate than recorded over the past three months.

Mr Connolly said the decline in footfall and the number of vacant retail premises suggested that retailers and shopping destinations would have to work harder to attract custom and that they cannot do this on their own.

Business rates

“Restoring devolved government here in Northern Ireland would mean we could crack on with recasting business rates for the decade ahead in order to deliver a reformed system and lower tax burden which would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”

However, one Belfast shopping centre is looking forward to a welcome investment boost this year which could create up to 80 jobs.

Alfred Street Properties, which owns Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park in east Belfast on Monday will confirm that The Range, a home, garden and leisure retail chain, plans to open a 57,000sq ft store at the the park in 2017. The chain said it would invest £2 million in its latest Northern Ireland store. It already has stores in Derry and Ballymena.

Alfred Street Properties said it intended to invest a further £1 million in the Connswater centre.