Rise in shoppers gets 2016 off to positive start

A rise in the number of shoppers last month could suggest a more positive start to the year for retailers, according to experts.

Footfall numbers have increased this January Picture: Toby Williams

Footfall numbers in Scotland were 1.5% higher in January than a year ago - up from the 0.2% rise recorded the previous month, a report showed.

It was the best performance since March 2015 and was ahead of the UK average of 1.2%.

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However, the shop vacancy rate in Scotland in January of 9.1% was an increase from 8.7% in the previous quarter.

The figures were published in the monthly SRC-Springboard Footfall Monitor.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “This second successive month of growth in shopper footfall is encouraging and may point to a more positive start to the year for retailers after what was a decidedly downbeat 2015 as a whole for the industry in Scotland.

“By contrast, however, the deterioration in the shop vacancy rate is less welcome. One in every eleven shops in our town centres is empty, higher than the comparable figure for the UK.

“There is no more pressing issue for the industry than the prohibitive cost of business rates, which has moved in the eyes of many retailers from an irritation to mission critical in recent years.”

Speaking about the rise in vacant shops in Scotland, Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “Evidence shows the driving force in the drop in vacancies across the UK to be an increase in pop-ups and temporary lets in the run up to Christmas and which are still occupied.

“It seems that Scotland’s retail destinations are lagging behind in the demand from occupiers for space which is a challenge moving forward into 2016.”