NIRC – SPRINGBOARD FOOTFALL AND VACANCIES SEPTEMBER 2017

Covering the five weeks 27 August 2017 – 30 September 2017

  • Footfall declined further by 4.3% in Northern Ireland in September compared to 2.0% decline in August. This is significantly above the three month average decrease of 2.9%.
  • High Street and Retail Parks both saw a sharp decline of 6.1% in this region, the highest for the UK as a whole, however it experienced positive growth in Shopping Centres of 0.9% the first time in this location since May (0.0%).

Aodhán Connolly, Director | Northern Ireland Retail Consortium

"September’s footfall figures have a disappointing sense of unwelcome déjà vu. For the fourth consecutive month, not only have we seen a decline in footfall but yet again we are bottom of the league table across the UK. The only light in this gloom is that shopping centres have seen their first growth since May, albeit slight.

"The simple fact is that it is becoming harder and harder to get the Northern Ireland consumer to spend not only their hard earned money, but their time in retail destinations. There’s an urgent need to stall the growing number of retail locations that are falling further behind the rest of the UK, by attracting shoppers to retail destinations with the right mix of products, experience and convenience. But this is where the conundrum lies for retailers: the growing cost of doing business in Northern Ireland leaves little to no wiggle room for investment in their store proposition. 

"While some of the growing costs come from Westminster policy decisions, it is imperative that our devolved Executive gets back up and running and deals with the growing list of issues in their purview.  For example, we need bold decisions taken on the future of the outdated, costly and inequitable business rates system, as it simply isn’t tenable for retailers to form an eighth of the economy yet be forced to stump up almost a quarter of business rates. We need certainty on a number of business-facing policies in order to allow our industry to invest and provide great value to shoppers. Quite simply we need our Executive back to work."

 Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director | Springboard

"The drop in Northern Ireland’s footfall in September of -4.3 per cent drove the three month rolling average down to -2.8 per cent from +2.3 per cent in August; the worst three month average this year.  Retail sales rose in September due to inflation, but the accelerating decline in footfall is a strong indicator of consumers railing back spending. Much is often made about the impact of weather, but with similar weather conditions to September 2016, this cannot be put forward as a driver.  Aggressive early season sales indicate retailers are spooked, and they will be on edge with the six week countdown now on to the start of the festive shopping season.

"And the decline in footfall doesn’t just mean reduced spending on retail goods; drops in footfall across all periods of the 24 hour day (-5.1 per cent from 9am to 5pm and -4.2 per cent post 5pm in Northern Ireland) demonstrate that leisure and hospitality spending is also being curtailed.  However, the greater drop in footfall during day time hours indicates vulnerability, particularly as in Northern Ireland’s high streets – the backbone of its retail offer - day time footfall dropped by -6.4 per cent compared with just -1.5 per cent in shopping centres.

"Retail parks continue to increase their appeal with a rise of +1.1 per cent across the UK, the seventh consecutive month of footfall increase. The appeal of their accessibility and free parking, alongside an increasingly attractive proposition, comes to the fore when household budgets are squeezed through inflationary pressures and minimal wage rise."