Footfall in Northern Ireland out-performs UK

Northern Ireland has achieved the second highest rate of footfall in the UK, with only the Greater London region seeing greater numbers of shoppers.



19 March 2013

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In February, shopper numbers in Northern Ireland were 2.6% higher than a year ago, up from the 0.4% rise in January 2013.

These figures are considerably better than the whole UK where shopper numbers were up 0.8%.

Footfall in February was 0.8% higher than a year ago, an improvement on the 4.6% decline in January, according to the NIRC/Springboard Footfall Monitor.

These figures support the recent uplift in retail sales reported by the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, where total sales growth reached a three year high.

Footfall improved on high streets with a 2.7% increase compared with a year earlier, the strongest growth since December 2011. Footfall in shopping centres (-1.6%) and out-of-town (-1.5%) locations fell; however, this is a significant improvement on January’s figures.

Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said: "These figures are encouraging for retailers large and small across Northern Ireland. The footfall is the second highest rate after Greater London and compares well against the UK average of 0.8 per cent and the Scottish figures which showed a drop of -2.5 per cent year on year.

"There are signs here that after a very disappointing December and January, shoppers are now starting to gain a renewed confidence. This is partly due to the Back In Belfast campaign which the NIRC is supportive of and which has been a huge success, as well as the weeks of peace that we have had.

"Northern Ireland has a great retail mix with something different to offer in each of our towns and cities. However we must not be complacent with what is happening in the high street. We look forward to working with government at all levels in the coming months to look at issues as diverse as car parking, rates, regeneration and planning."

Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, said: "Footfall on the high street increased annually in February by 2.7%, which is the first annual increase since November last year, and the largest increase in a single month since December 2011. Conversely footfall in shopping centres and retail parks declined annually in February by -1.6% and -1.5%.

"The disparity could be explained by the recent decline in multiples being primarily located in shopping centres and retail parks, with high streets offering a wider diversity.

"The half term week was spread over the last two weeks of the month this year compared with just the third week last year, and whilst the fourth week recorded an annual increase of 2.6% for shopping centres, its benefit was countered by a year-on-year decline of 7.3% in the third week of the month.

"For the high street, one swallow does not make a summer, but these results might hint at the green shoots of recovery, or at least some stabilisation in the current environment."

The Brand Challenge

New Research Shows How Shoppers Attitudes to Premium Brands Has Evolved

… Only 51 percent of shoppers define ‘premium’ on pricing, 76 percent say its quality…

…Seven in ten shoppers say they don’t care where they buy premium brands as long as they get a good price…

London, UK – 18th March 2013 – The latest report from Shoppercentric, an independent agency specialising in shopper research, has been launched today. The research entitled: ‘WindowOn…The Brand Challenge’ investigates how ‘premium’ brands are affected by distribution choices i.e. where and how they are sold to shoppers, and whether the shopper actually cares about where they make their purchases. It also examines the impact of ‘premium’ brands being sold on promotion.

"It’s critical for premium brands to fully understand how their customers feel about their products presence and availability through different channels," says Danielle Pinnington, Managing Director at Shoppercentric. "With the ever strengthening presence of the discounters we know this is an issue that continues to challenge brand managers, so it’s important to find out from shoppers about their perceptions and buying behaviours."

Key findings:

• Defining ‘Premium’:
o ‘Premium’ is considered both a subjective and a relative term: a personal judgment made from an individual vantage point. What was always common from respondents, however, was the sense of trading up from cheaper alternatives in order to achieve a consistent and satisfying result – one that was worth the extra investment
o When asked to rationalise what characterises ‘premium’ across the board shoppers reach a clear consensus:
• 76 percent of shoppers cite ‘product quality’ as the key defining feature of a premium brand
• In comparison only 51 percent mention ‘price’, indicating what appears to be a more discerning value judgment that is being applied
• Just 16 percent of shoppers feel that upmarket stores are the only place to buy premium brands

• The Democratisation of Premium:
o Seven in ten shoppers say they don’t care where they buy premium brands as long as they get a good price
o Six in ten shoppers agreed that they hate the snobbery around premium brands and nearly 20 percent strongly agree with this statement
o Just 28 percent of respondents stated that they wanted to feel ‘special’ when they buy a premium brand

• Discounting and Promotions on Premium Products:
o 59 percent of shoppers believe that if they saw a premium brand on reduced price, it would make them question whether the full price was too high
o 74 percent of shoppers agreed that they loved finding a premium brand with a price discount
o 61 percent of shoppers said they only buy premium brands when they are on offer
o 59 percent of shoppers also feel that premium brands who never offer discounts are in fact out of touch with their customers and 37 percent of shoppers agreed that the types of brands who don’t discount, don’t care about their shoppers

Pinnington commented: "The findings indicate that price alone clearly does not denote superior quality for shoppers anymore. Great (and proven) quality appears to lie at the heart of an unequivocal premium brand definition – but there is clearly also a role for expressing this, through price, packaging, image or even channel and in-store theatre. Care and attention on shelf also mark out a premium brand for many and poor housekeeping, or sloppy merchandising, can go a long way towards undermining a premium brand’s cachet. For many shoppers it appears, it isn’t about where you sell a premium brand, but how you sell it.

Our evidence suggests that if there is a clear price advantage for shoppers, many will accept what may be an incongruous setting for premium brands. If trust in the brand’s integrity is such that quality is assured, any reservations about the retail setting can be swiftly overcome in order to make a decent saving. Of course, there will always be some die-hards for whom the location cue over-rides everything else and for these shoppers a premium brand presence in a discount retailer still gives pause for thought.

In terms of premium brands being on promotion, it’s perhaps no surprise that shoppers still love to bag a bargain – indeed price reductions offer access to these products for many shoppers who would otherwise not buy them. However it’s important to get the difficult balance of discount/promotions right. To maintain a truly premium position, promotional activity should offer an occasional chance to indulge – or a welcome reward for loyalty – rather than a more continuous expectation which can see perception of ‘premium’ erode.

Brand owners need to acknowledge that times have changed. Shoppers expect bargains and are being more considered in their purchasing. The retail landscape has shifted: although still relatively small, the discounters are growing and more and more shoppers are adding them to their repertoire. So, considering these changes, brand values may also need to flex to make sure the brand stays in touch with its showroom and shopper. Vanity is simply too expensive to maintain in the current climate."



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