Posted on Friday 12 October 2018 by John Mulgrew
The high street has been dealt a heavy blow as footfall plummets a third in the wake of a huge fire which gutted the Primark building in Belfast.
At the end of August, a fire left the listed Bank Buildings in ruins, and led to a huge chunk of the city’s main thoroughfare being cut off due to a cordon.
Now, the latest footfall fights from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Springboard, show footfall down by more than 30% in Belfast, with some areas facing even larger drops.
Across Northern Ireland as a whole, there was a drop of 4.6% in September, with high streets and retail parks taking a 6.1% battering.
That followed two strong months for retail here.
“This drastic dip in shopper footfall after two good months comes directly on the back of the fire that affected Primark’s flagship store in Belfast City Centre, NI’s main retail destination,” Aodhan Connolly, director of the NIRC said.
“This sad occurrence has effectively split Belfast’s busiest thoroughfare, and the city centre in two. This is distressing not only for Primark and the fourteen businesses within the cordon who cannot open, but also those in the locale who are affected by the footfall drop and their suppliers.
“Both Primark and Belfast City Council have shown leadership and concern with support for traders and the area, but now we need the Chancellor in his forthcoming budget to make a tangible difference not only to Belfast but to the whole retail industry in this current time of structural change.”
And Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said that a "drop in footfall of 4.6% in Northern Ireland in September compared with a modest rise of 0.5% in footfall in August provides further evidence of the current challenges facing bricks and mortar retail”.
“While it would be easy to put this down to the shift to online spending, the story is not nearly as cut and dried. The fire at the Primark store in Belfast which occurred in the first week of the month will have impacted on the monthly result to some degree as Belfast generates the greatest volume of footfall of any destination in Northern Ireland.
“This is evidenced by a drop in footfall in Belfast of more than 30%, and consequently the sudden downward shift in high street footfall across Northern Ireland in September to 6.1% following four months of consecutive rises.”