Scottish footfall rises for third consecutive month - but down on March

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale

Footfall numbers in Scotland during April were 1.1 per cent higher than a year ago, marking the third month of growth in a row for the figures north of the border.

However, the rise recorded by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and Springboard was down from the 1.7 per cent rise in March 2015.

The mixed results stand in contrast with a disappointing performance across the UK as a whole for April which saw footfall 0.8 per cent lower than a year ago and down from the 0.2 per cent rise in March, as well as below the three-month average of -0.3 per cent.

Both high streets and shopping centres across the UK reported a decline, falling 0.1 per cent and 3.0 per cent respectively.

Footfall in out-of-town locations fared the best with a 0.5 per cent increase year-on-year, but this was still the lowest figure recorded since September.

Only four regions and countries reported footfall above the UK average, with the East, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Greater London all reporting positive footfall growth.

The SRC data showed that the vacancy rate in Scotland was 10.4 per cent, a sharp rise from 9.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 10.2 per cent in April 2015, down from the 10.4 per cent rate reported in January 2015.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Like the curate’s egg, these figures are excellent in part. Footfall in Scotland’s shopping destinations has sprouted for a third successive month. Indeed shopper footfall has shown positive growth in Scotland in ten of the last twelve months, outshining the rest of the UK, and at a time when the popularity of online retailing has never been greater.

“Less encouraging, though, is the spike in the shop vacancy rate in our town centres. Vacancies have risen for a second successive quarter, and with one in every ten retail premises now empty the vacancy rate in Scotland now lies a smidgen above that of the UK as a whole. The SRC wants to see further momentum injected into the government’s town centres agenda with improved accessibility, more affordable parking, and action to address the bugbear of the cost and ease of doing business.”

Diane Wehrle, Retail Insights Director at Springboard, said:The increase in footfall of 1.1 per cent in Scotland’s retail destinations compares favourably with the drop of 0.8 per cent across the UK. The polarisation of shopper activity commented on last month is continuing, with the increase in footfall of 9.5 per cent in its retail parks being far more significant than the modest rise of 0.5 per cent across the UK. Much of this increase in footfall appears to have been attracted from shopping centres where footfall fell by 5.1 per cent, a noticeably greater drop than the 3 per cent across the UK. Also in contrast to the UK, footfall in high streets in Scotland rose by 0.7 per cent compared with -0.1 per cent across the UK.

“The major downside for Scotland in April is a significant increase in its vacancy rate from 9.7 per cent, to 10.4 per cent over the three months from January, and for the first time since April 2014 it is now higher than the prevailing UK rate of 10.2 per cent. The sudden rise in the vacancy rate in Scotland is likely to be an indication of the adverse impact of the increasing number of retail leases that are expiring, offering retailers an opportunity to vacate units that are no longer in viable trading locations. The fact that this has impacted on Scotland’s towns and cities to a greater degree than the UK as a whole despite the growth of omni-channel shopping behaviour suggests a more challenging trading period ahead.”

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