NIRC- SPRINGBOARD FOOTFALL AND VACANCIES MONITOR – AUGUST 2017

Covering the four weeks 30 July – 26 August 2017

Northern Ireland Summary:

  • Footfall dropped by -2.3% in Northern Ireland in August compared to +2.5% in August 2016. A further decline on July’s rate of -2.0%.
  • This is in line with the three-month average of -2.3% (the lowest for all regions) and below the twelve-month average of -1.1%.
  • Footfall fell for three consecutive months at all three locations in Northern Ireland in August. Retail parks, the strongest performing of the 3 locations (Retail Parks/Shopping Centres/Hight Street), (for the UK) saw 3 consecutive months of falling footfall in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium Director, Aodhán Connolly, said:

“This is another underwhelming performance for Northern Ireland when compared to the rest of the UK, with our shopper footfall numbers again being rock bottom of the league table. Most disappointing is that Northern Ireland has now seen a full quarter of footfall decline across all three areas measured, high streets, retail parks and shopping centres, and at a faster rate of decline than over the past year as a whole. “Tempting shoppers back is crucial, not least to reducing the already high number of vacant premises, and retailers and shopping destinations will be working even harder to attract custom through improving service, ranges, pricing and promotions. However what we also need is renewed consumer confidence and greater certainty which would flow from the restoration of political leadership and devolved government here in NI. As the only part of the UK that has a land border with the EU, we also need Westminster to secure a fair Brexit for consumers in Northern Ireland by ensuring that ordinary shoppers aren’t hit with the cost of unwanted new tariffs.

“It is imperative that our devolved Executive gets back up and running and deals with the growing list of issues in their in-tray. We need bold decisions taken on the future of the outdated, costly and inequitable business rates system, as it simply isn’t tenable for retailers to form an eighth of the economy yet be forced to stump up over a fifth of business rates. Retailers here in NI have also been paying into the Apprenticeship Levy for six months without clarity over how it will be spent or how they can access the monies which they pay in. 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 said: 

"Last month's prediction of increasingly constrained consumer activity seems to being borne out with footfall dropping by -2.3% in Northern Ireland, more than double the drop of -1.2% across the UK. This was the third consecutive month of footfall decline, although caution needs to be exerted in using this to predict a trend as footfall in Northern Ireland is notoriously volatile. However, a good indicator of prospects is footfall during day time hours, as this accounts for around 70% of all footfall over a 24 hour period. And in contrast to both July when footfall in Northern Ireland’s high streets dropped by just -0.8% during daytime hours, and August 2016 when it fell by -0.4%, in August this year it tumbled to -2.4%.

"At least part of the reason for more subdued footfall was a rise in online activity, in terms of both value and volume. Online sales values rose by +11%, the greatest rise this year and significantly up on the +6.2% last August and the +8.3% in July. The uplift in online sales volumes at +8.7% was a third higher than the +5.5% in July, with the increase in transactions via mobile devices of 27.6% higher than in any month since October last year. In part the rise in online activity will have been a result of much cooler, rainy weather this August than in 2016 which undoubtedly discouraged some shopping trips. However, it is also a function of increasing inflationary pressures, driving consumers online in a search for lower prices which is likely to only become more significant as inflation continues to increase its bite on household budgets."