Shopper numbers in Scotland fell 8.2 per cent in the three months to July compared to the same period last year, figures released today reveal.
While this is an improvement on the previous quarter when footfall decreased by 12.6 per cent, this is substantially worse than the whole UK where footfall dropped by 2.3 per cent.
According to automated accountancy firm Springboard’s latest findings on behalf of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), the most badly affected regions over the quarter were Greater London, Scotland and the East, which saw decreases of 8.9 per cent, 8.2 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.
While the South East saw the slowest decline of 0.5 per cent followed by the North & Yorkshire with a 0.9 per cent drop, Northern Ireland and Wales were the only regions to experience footfall growth over the period, up 6.2 per cent and four per cent respectively.
Commenting on the results, Diane Wehrle, Research Director at Springboard, said: “Throughout April to July the high street experienced a more dramatic footfall drop compared to shopping centres and out of town locations, with the gap widening since the same quarter in 2011.
“The wet weather was undoubtedly a key factor as consumers preferred covered retail areas to escape the wettest three months on record. Out of town retail locations have also shown more resilience – they are more convenient to access by car, provide cheaper car parking, and again consumers can avoid venturing outside in the rain.
“However, despite the 2.3 per cent footfall drop, and that this statistic has worsened from a drop of one per cent in the same quarter last year – vacancies have only risen marginally from July 2011 (from 11.2 per cent to 11.4 per cent), which shows that UK town centres are retaining the quality of their offering.”
In July, the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.4 per cent, up from 11.2 per cent compared with the same period last year, while Northern Ireland and Wales saw vacancies rise 18.5 per cent and 15.3 per cent over the month.
Last week, the SRC reported a decline in Scottish retail sales of 0.7 per cent in July with food sales remaining virtually flat as consumer confidence continues to struggle.
Economist at the SRC Richard Lim noted: “People are short of money, worried about jobs and not spending which is hitting numbers of shoppers and successful shops.
“The fact that town centre shop vacancy rates are better than the UK average offers a bit of comfort but Scotland still has one in ten premises standing empty.
“Apart from a Christmas boost in December, footfall has now been down in Scotland for 12 months in a row. Our Scottish Retail Sales Monitor confirms that cutting back is becoming more widespread as this period of falling disposable incomes stretches out.
“Financial concerns are not going away and people who aren’t going to spend are much less likely to go to shopping locations.
“Only when confidence returns will we see more customers out and retailers taking on some of those unused shops. These figures don’t suggest that turning point is imminent.”