Mobility increased prior to restrictions

[27 November] In the last seven days, we’ve seen people descend on towns and cities across Northern Ireland in droves, picking up last minute essentials before a two-week circuit breaker, which closes non-essential retail until 11th December. Combine this with Black Friday offers, which many retailers introduced earlier than ever, and we’ve seen significant increases in movement.

Through the week, driving activity peaked above the baseline, with a weekly average of 96%, reflecting increased mobility across the province. Within Belfast, traffic was also increased, with congestion closer to that seen in 2019. Live data from Thursday, which was the last day non-essential retail, close contact services and non-licensed hospitality venues could open, showed a marked increase in congestion compared to the same period last week.

Pedestrian activity in grocery and pharmacy locations also saw growth across the week, despite being unaffected by incoming restrictions. Unlike other regions of the UK and Ireland, NI’s supermarkets will continue to offer the full range of products, including non-food items. While footfall in these regions grows naturally through December, the continued availability of non-essential items is likely to entice shoppers.

The number of people in workplace environments also saw growth this week, with greater footfall in the city centre and key business areas. Average mobility for this sector is down by only 30% when compared to the baseline, highlighting the large number of people who continue to commute to and from their jobs.

The imminent closure of many high street retailers, and the reopening of non-licensed hospitality venues delivered 9% weekly growth in footfall through retail and recreation locations. The average remains down by 30% compared to baseline, but growth is always welcomed. Parks once again saw an increase in footfall, following several days of clear winter sunshine. While not a typical target location, advertisers seeking to reach audiences with a health or information message should not overlook panels in these locations, as when combined with a positive weather forecast they could deliver strong coverage without many competing messages.