The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) has revealed that the number of shoppers on the high street fell by 6.9 per cent last month, with independent shops closing down at an alarming rate.
In collaboration with retail analysts Springboard, the consortium found that overall footfall numbers in July were 4.5 per cent lower than the previous July.
The vacancy rate in Northern Ireland shops was 17.3 per cent, a rise from 16.4 per cent in the previous quarter.
Northern Irelands dismal shop figures make a sizeable contribution to the UK’s overall retail statistics, with the report highlighting that:
- Footfall in July was 1.1 per cent lower than a year ago, up from the 1.5 per cent fall in June. This was slightly above the three-month average of -1.2 per cent
- Both High Streets and Shopping Centres reported a decline, falling 2.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.
- Footfall in retail park locations fared the best with a 3.1 per cent increase year-on-year, the highest figure since May 2014, excluding Easter distortions.
- Two regions and countries reported footfall above the UK average, with Greater London the only region to report positive footfall growth.
The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.8 per cent in July 2015, down from the 10.2per cent rate reported in April 2015. This is the lowest reported rate since we began reporting the data in July 2011.
Aodhán Connolly, director of NIRC commented on the report, stating that this is the second successive rise in the shop vacancy rate within Northern Ireland.
‘‘Almost one out of every six retail premises in Northern Ireland now sits empty. Encouraging shoppers back is crucial to reducing the number of vacant premises, however shopper footfall shrivelled once again in July and for the third successive month.’’
‘‘A more concerted effort is required to drive up footfall and further reduce the number of empty retail premises in our town centres. Retailers have a role to play but we also need to see government at all levels consider what further steps could be taken.’’
‘‘For example more emphasis needs to be placed on accessible and affordable parking and on making it easier and less costly for retailers and others to invest in commercial premises.’’