Shoppers numbers sag but vacancy rate improves -SRC

SRCOctober saw footfall numbers in Scotland down 0.6 per cent year-on-year but better than the 0.8 per cent decline recorded in September, according to latest figures.

The data from the Scottish Retail Consortium and Springboard also showed that the vacancy rate in Scotland was 8.7 per cent, a sharp fall from the 10.6 per cent rate in the previous quarter.

Accros the UK, footfall in October was 0.2 per cent lower than a year ago, unchanged from the decline in September and above the three-month average of -0.6 per cent.

Footfall in retail park locations increased 2.9 per cent year-on-year - below September’s high of 4.0 per cent.

High Streets and Shopping Centres reported a decline in footfall of 1.0 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively.

Four regions in England reported positive footfall growth in October, the East Midlands continuing its strong performance.

The national town centre vacancy rate was 9.1 per cent in October 2015, down from the 9.8 per cent rate reported in July 2015. This is the lowest reported rate since we began reporting the data in July 2011.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Shopper footfall in Scotland sagged slightly once again in October, and for a sixth successive month, albeit at a less pronounced rate than the month before and also when contrasted to the average of the past three months. We do have to keep in mind that Scotland’s 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.

“The improved shop vacancy rate in our town centres provides a welcome glimmer of light, more so as it comes after three successive quarters of deterioration. We look forward to seeing whether this develops into a sustained improvement in shop vacancy rates or whether it simply reflects retail units being taken up on a temporary basis in the run up to the crucial Christmas trading period.

“With the clock firmly ticking down towards the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and Finance Secretary’s Scottish Budget in a few weeks’ time, retailers’ will be looking for convincing action to bolster consumer confidence and also stem the relentless rise in government-inspired cost pressures.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: ‘’October is fast becoming an important ‘look and compare’ month for shoppers ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is driving up footfall across all retail destinations. Footfall continued to improve in October for the fourth consecutive month, now standing just below the UK at -0.6 per cent. The result of a 0.6 per cent drop in footfall in October this year and rise of 0.5 per cent in 2014 were significant improvements on the drop of 2.7 per cent in 2013 is evidence of the importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

‘’The second trend is a further improvement in Scotland’s vacancy rate, albeit after 3 previous quarters of deterioration, so not only is it the lowest since 2011 at 8.7 per cent, but it is lower than the UK at 9.1 per cent, and the 1.9 per cent drop from July was greater than across the UK. This contrasts with expectations at the beginning of the year when the unprecedented number of retail leases expiring this year suggested that the vacancy rate would increase. However, after a long period of recession and low demand for additional space from retailers, alongside the growth of leisure and food and beverage and multi-channel shopping, landlords have been forced into being more flexible about who they are prepared to accept as tenants and on what terms – no longer able to demand the strength of covenant they were once able to, we are now seeing a broadening of occupier types in high streets and shopping centres which can only be for the good.’’

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