Brexit adds to Scottish retail woes

DiDiane WehrleScotland’s digital retail parks and traditional High Streets suffered a slump in footfall last month with experts blaming poor weather, declining consumer purchasing power and uncertainty over Brexit as negative factors. Worryingly, the slump extended to digital sales.

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director, of retail intelligence experts Springboard, pictured, said: “Footfall performance in Scotland was more disheartening than across the UK, with a drop of 6.2 per cent overall. High streets and shopping centres were the culprits, with significant drops in footfall of 9.1 per cent and -7.2 per cent respectively; although these were at least partially offset by a rise of 2.2 per cent in retail parks. On a positive note, despite the poor footfall performance, vacancies fell back to 8.4 per cent from 9.1 per cent in January.”

She added, “April’s footfall figures certainly echo the high street decline seen over recent months, which can be attributable to the poor weather for this time of year, but with digital sales and retail parks also slowing down it signifies something more at play. The rise in unemployment and economic uncertainty in this pre EU referendum period has undoubtedly adversely impacted consumer activity. We know that cuts in retail spending are the first line of defence against threats to household budgets when consumer confidence is knocked.”

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium, commented: “These are at best mixed results, with a slight and welcome improvement in the shop vacancy rate greatly tempered by a third successive month of declining shopper footfall numbers. Indeed, April saw an acceleration of the recent downwards trend in shopper footfall in our retail destinations, tumbling for a third successive month and at a fast rate than over the past quarter and indeed the year as a whole.

“That said, we do have to keep in mind that Scottish retailers are increasingly adept at harnessing the internet and multi-channel innovations to get through to consumers who might not have time to travel to the shops. Until April’s Scottish sales figures are published we won’t know what impact this waning of footfall numbers has had on actual retail sales.”

“This is a time of significant tumult for the retail industry and shoppers undoubtedly remain cautious. The Holyrood Parliament now exerts significant influence over take home pay and the cost of living and it remains to be seen what impact the planned changes to council tax and devolved income tax next year will have on disposable incomes and consumer confidence going forward.”

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