Sales on Black Fri­day pro­vided timely boost for NI’S high street

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY RYAN MCALEER

BLACK Fri­day sales helped North­ern Ire­land’s high street buck the Uk-wide trend of fall­ing re­tail spend­ing, new foot­fall data has sug­gested.

With a new tun­nel re­open­ing one of Belfast’s most im­por­tant re­tail thor­ough­fares this week, an­a­lyst Spring­board said North­ern Ire­land’s high street foot­fall ex­pe­ri­enced a 6.4% year-on-year rise in the week begin­ning Novem­ber 18.

Against a UK high street av­er­age of -6.8%, North­ern Ire­land was the only re­gion to record an in­crease for the seven days, which in­cludes Black Fri­day (Novem­ber 24).

High street foot­fall also showed a 2.6% im­prove­ment in North­ern Ire­land on the pre­vi­ous seven days. It rep­re­sents some pos­i­tive news for re­tail af­ter one of the most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods in the re­cent his­tory of North­ern Ire­land’s high street.

Foot­fall in some of Belfast’s key re­tail ar­eas has been dec­i­mated since fire en­gulfed Pri­mark’s flag­ship Bank Build­ings store on Au­gust 28. Emer­gency mea­sures put in place af­ter­wards ef­fec­tively cut the city cen­tre in half, with foot­fall down by up to 60% in some lo­ca­tions.

Spring­board’s most re­cent data, for the week end­ing Satur­day, De­cem­ber 1, also showed North­ern Ire­land’s high street as the best per­form­ing in the UK.

It was down just 0.3% on the same week last year de­spite the Pri­mark im­pact — of­fer­ing some sign of en­cour­age­ment for re­tail here.

By con­trast, other re­gions of the UK saw year-on-year foot­fall drop by up to 9.4% last week.

The the new ac­cess tun­nel around Pri­mark has en­abled four stores to re­open. Ar­gento, Mcdon­ald’s, Skech­ers and Spar have all recom­menced trad­ing.

The re­open­ing of Pri­mark in Com­mon­wealth House on Satur­day (De­cem­ber 8) is ex­pected to drive more foot­fall into the area.

Re­tail NI chief ex­ec­u­tive, Glyn Roberts, said it has been a wel­come de­vel­op­ment for both city cen­tre traders and shop­pers. “While the tun­nel is not a per­fect so­lu­tion, it does al­low im­proved ac­cess for shop­pers and for the open­ing of most of the busi­nesses within the cor­don. Busi­nesses in Belfast city cen­tre have suf­fered sig­nif­i­cantly due to the Pri­mark fire, but we are con­fi­dent things will im­prove due to the open­ing of the walk­way and the ex­cel­lent re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity on of­fer this Christ­mas,” he added.

There was more pos­i­tive news on the re­tail front yes­ter­day, with Sports Di­rect an­nounc­ing that it will open a 4,500 sq ft store at the Connswa­ter Shop­ping Cen­tre. And econ­o­mist, John Simp­son, has es­ti­mated that shop­pers from the Repub­lic, mo­ti­vated by the de­val­u­a­tion in ster­ling, now con­trib­ute around £40m a year to North­ern Ire­land re­tail cen­tres near the bor­der.

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