Northern Ireland experienced the sharpest year-on-year footfall decline of any region in the UK in October, figures out today reveal.

The region also recorded the highest vacancy rate, despite a small decrease.

The figures come from the latest survey by footfall counter Springboard in conjunction with the Northern Irish Retail Consortium, released today.

Total footfall in Northern Ireland dropped by 5.3% in October compared to the previous year, well below the UK average drop of 0.8%, and vacancy rate remains the highest of any region at 16.6% despite a long period of recovery.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly said: While it is encouraging to see that we have had over 18 months of continual fall in the vacancy rate, we have seen a fall in footfall of 5.3% compared to last year, which is this highest fall across the UK with the national average being a fall of 0.8%. While this decrease in footfall in the run up to Christmas is worrying, it must be remembered that this is the first fall since July 2014 and one of only three decreases year on year in 2014.

‘’We are coming into the important Christmas shopping period and retailers’ promotions and new ranges will hopefully drive footfall in November and December on Northern Ireland’s high streets and shopping centres, though the trick as ever is converting this into actual sales. We await next months’ figures with interest.’’

Across the UK, shopping centres showed the weakest performance, down 1.9% compared with October 2013, with shopping numbers increasing by 1.9% in out-of-town centres.

The best-performing region in October was Scotland, where footfall rose by 0.5%. Scotland also recorded the lowest vacancy rate of any region at 9%.