EconomyHigh Street

Northern Ireland suffers most from UK retail struggles

Northern Ireland is suffering the worst of retail’s bad weather, showing a 7.3% drop in footfall and a retail space vacancy rate of 14.2%, 5% higher than the UK average.

The figures from statistics and research firm, Springboard, show the country reporting its worst retail performance since 2015.

The decline of Carpetright and House of Fraser is also set to hit Northern Ireland hard, with nine of the carpet retailer’s stores and House of Fraser’s Victoria Square branch all set to close.

High streets and retail parks in the country saw declines of 8%, while shopping centre visits were down by 5.6%.

Aodhan Connolly, director at the NI Retail Consortium said: “It’s getting more challenging in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK. Northern Ireland has finished bottom of the league table once again with a decrease in shopper footfall last month of 7%, the poorest performance in two and a half years.

“However, some of this drop can be attributed to inclement weather and the timing of the Easter holidays, as well as the continued shift to online shopping. We have always had a more volatile market here, so that when we have drops, they are much more tangible than elsewhere in the UK – though when we have rises, they are sharper.

“We’re on a steady trajectory downwards but it’s still taking too long, and there’s still a 5% gap between our vacancy rate and the UK average.”

Northern Ireland recently saw closures of eight Toys R Us and Maplin stores.

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