1. ITV Report

Drop in N Ireland footfall figures blamed on ‘looming threat’ of no-deal Brexit

Consumer footfall in Northern Ireland has dropped by 3.1% in September. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA

A 3.1% drop in consumer footfall figures has been blamed on the “looming threat” of a no-deal Brexit.

Northern Ireland shopping centres saw a footfall decline of 5.5% while the high street saw a dip of 2.3%.

The region was the worst performing in the UK, according to the latest figures released by Springboard which cover from August 25 to September 28.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, has blamed a drop in footfall figures on the uncertainty of how the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. Credit: NIRC/PA) 

Aodhan Connolly (right), director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said it should come as “no surprise” amid the uncertainty of how the United Kingdom will leave the European Union.

“September was another disappointing month for footfall in Northern Ireland with a further similar dip to that witnessed in August, very much reflective of what we have seen with consumer spending too over recent months,” he said.

“The looming threat of a no deal disaster affecting consumer spending. It is no surprise that retail sales growth was in the red in the latest BRC figures.

“Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather.

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“The ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers.

“Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours, and it is vitally important that the UK does not leave the EU without a deal.

“The fact Northern Ireland households have half of the discretionary income of Great British households means that we will feel any cost rises hardest.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said footfall patterns were different in Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

“In the UK as a whole, the vast majority of the footfall decline emanated from the last week of the month when the country was hit by exceptionally heavy rain,” she said.

“However, in Northern Ireland the more severe drops were in the early weeks of the month when the weather was most favourable.

“To provide some context, in the last week of the month in Northern Ireland footfall dropped by -3.5% versus a drop of -6.1% across the UK. This suggests that the decline in footfall is more structural, and not simply a function of adverse weather conditions.”