Shoppers are starting to shun stores in Northern Ireland, according to new figures, which show that for the first three months of this year footfall fell by almost 6% compared with the same period last year.
The Experian national footfall index shows that although year-on-year footfall fell by 1.6% in the Republic in January, retailers received an encouraging boost as shopper visits to high streets and shopping centres increased in February and again in March by 1% and 0.4% respectively.
This is the first time positive year-on-year footfall values has been recorded since March 2008.
The figures indicate that the consistently declining footfall experienced by retailers for the past two years appears to be steadying.
In Northern Ireland, January year-on-year footfall figures were down 8.3%, whilst February and March also decreased by 4.3% and 4.6% respectively.
Head of sales and marketing with Experian, Paul Slevin, said: “After a long period of declining footfall, February and March’s year-on-year figures will come as welcome news to retailers, particularly as the January sales were jeopardised by this year’s cold weather.
“Not only were there more people out and about, but purchasing also increased as figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the volumes of sales in February were up 3% compared with the same month last year.
“This again represents the first annual increase in sales for more than two years.”
He said the figures for Northern Ireland represent a significant drop compared to the same period last year.
“It is possible that some of those southern shoppers who have been visiting Northern Ireland to take advantage of the weaker pound and the lower VAT rate are now looking for value for money closer to home,” he said.
The footfall index is a national benchmark of visitor numbers to shopping centres in Ireland.