It is unsurprising that shoppers are showing caution in their buying patterns as the cost of living crisis turns up another level as we head towards the winter months. The latest data shows that on the high streets of Northern Ireland footfall fell in September on three year comparisons.
This data has been drawn from the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Sensormatic IQ shows that footfall decreased by 13.4 % in the month of September, measured against 2019. Retail businesses are desperate for a healthy sales period in the run up to Christmas, but there are real concerns that shoppers will be hesitant in splashing the cash as inflation and increasing interest rates damage their confidence.
Footfall Slipping Compared To Pre-Pandemic Levels
NIRC spokesman David Lonsdale is quoted on this subject in the Irish News, saying:
“Shopper footfall in Northern Ireland slipped a touch in September compared to pre-pandemic levels, after three consecutive months of improvement, and it joined Scotland in turning in the weakest performance of the 12 regions of the UK which were monitored for store visits.
“Hopefully this dip will prove temporary, especially as we enter the golden quarter for shopping in the lead up to Christmas.
“The trend wasn’t uniform however, with shopping centres witnessing slightly better foot-traffic last month whilst Belfast recorded its weakest result since March.
“Recent government announcements on energy prices, national insurance contributions and the headline income tax rate should hopefully shore up consumer demand and keep down costs for retailers.”
He went on to say that help for retailers needs to be forthcoming from Stormont in the coming weeks, saying:
“The new consultation on devolving further tax powers to Stormont will certainly be of interest to retailers. In particular they will be keen to understand the policy intentions and direction of travel were control over things like income tax and the apprenticeship levy to be devolved; and any resulting impact this would have on household finances and retailers themselves.”
Retailers Won’t Be Looking At High Street Performance Through Rose-Tinted Glasses
And in the same article Andy Sumpter from Sensormatic Solutions said:
“While total UK retail saw footfall recovery rise to its highest point this year compared to pre-pandemic levels in September, boosted in part by back-to-school trading at the beginning of the month, retailers won’t be looking at high street performance through rose-tinted glasses.
“With all eyes turning towards the golden quarter, perhaps with a starker air of caution given the financial turbulence seen over the last few weeks and higher energy bills starting to hit consumers from October, many are already downgrading Christmas trading forecasts amid shaky consumer confidence.
“This means that among the usual pressures of preparing for peak, retailers will need to think hard about how they can support – and deliver value to – an increasingly cautious cost-of-living shopper during what will be a critical trading period.”
That will not be an easy task, so let us hope that further government intervention is forthcoming to give much needed support to our beleaguered retail businesses.