Posted on Monday 13 August 2018 by Seren Pemrick

Highstreet1

Northern Ireland’s shopping centres have been dealt a body blow after suffering a 5.5% slump in footfall, according to new figures.

Overall, footfall fell by 0.3% in Northern Ireland in July which ended two months of growth, and was below the three-month average of 1.4%, according to the latest survey from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) with Springboard.

However, footfall grew on the high street and retail parks by 1.4%.

But Northern Ireland’s high streets are still blighted by the highest shop vacancy levels in the UK. It’s now at its highest rate – 14.4% – in the last two years.

The latest footfall figures come amid uncertainty over the future of Belfast’s House of Fraser store.

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley bought the struggling chain out of administration.

Aodhan Connolly, director of NIRC, said there are “nearly 2,500 fewer retail stores in the UK than there were three years ago and there needs to be an overhaul in our antiquated business rates system that is a disincentive to invest in Northern Ireland”.

“Our industry needs Government support to effect retail reinvention and prevent retail Armageddon,” he said.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard added that “inevitably the hot weather in July impacted visits to retail destinations as the attraction of external environments and non-retail experiences lured consumers away from stores”.

She said that “the vacancy rate for the UK remains at 9.2%. In Northern Ireland, however, it remains stubbornly higher at 14.4% - still the highest of any part of the UK – and worsened over both the year and the quarter, indicating a challenging trading environment.”

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