New First Minister urged to tackle Scottish retail decline

New First Minister urged to tackle Scottish retail decline

Recent data reveals a concerning trend in Scottish footfall, urging for cohesive strategies from the incoming First Minister.

According to SRC-Sensormatic IQ figures covering the period from 31 March 2024 to 27 April 2024, Scottish footfall saw a decline of 3.6% in April compared to the previous year, following a 0.9% decrease in March.

While this is better than the UK average drop of 7.2%, it still indicates a concerning trend. Over March and April combined, Scottish footfall decreased by 2.2% year on year. Shopping centre footfall in Scotland experienced a more significant decline, dropping by 4.7% year on year in April, a decline of 3.5 percentage points from March.

In April, footfall in Edinburgh increased by 2.3% year on year, contrasting with a 5.7% decrease in Glasgow.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Visits to Scottish stores fell for a seventh consecutive month in April.

“The dip was more pronounced than in March due to Easter falling early this year, which brought forward foot-traffic to shops. The decline was felt across all retail destinations, albeit Edinburgh still turned in a positive performance.

“This comes at a tricky time for many stores with business rates bills landing firmly on doorsteps. Four and a half thousand Scottish shops have just seen an extra £31 million added to their annual rates bills, a cause for concern given the weakness in revenues from shoppers.

“At the same time the regulatory burden facing retailers continues to swell and grocers are facing the threat of a business rate surtax to help plug a gap in the devolved government’s finances.”

Mr Lonsdale continued: “Hopefully, the next First Minister will prioritise economic growth and bring a more coherent approach to revitalising our high streets and retail destinations.

“Central to this should be a plan to ease the regulatory burden, scrap the mooted public health surtax on grocers, and finally deliver on the pledge to restore business rates parity with England for medium-sized and larger commercial premises.

“The lack of rates parity costs Scotland’s retailers £9 million a year, cash which isn’t available for improvements to stores or customer service.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, acknowledged the blow that lacklustre footfall levels in April would have dealt to retailers.

He noted: “Whilst a drop in traffic may have been expected due to Easter falling early and the May bank holiday falling late, this will have been of little consolation. An exceptionally wet April also seems to have dampened many shoppers’ appetite for spending, especially in outlet and outdoor focused retailers.

“However, with financial pressures starting to ease for some, and indications of growing consumer confidence being reported, we will have to look forward to May to see if that filters through to improved in-store shopping.”

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