Fewer shops lying empty in Scotland, but squeeze on consumers continues

SRC director Fiona Moriarty
SRC director Fiona Moriarty
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The proportion of shops lying empty across Scotland has fallen over the past three months, but the continued squeeze on household incomes has also seen a drop in the number of shoppers venturing onto the high street.

Figures released today by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and data firm Springboard show that 9.9 per cent of Scottish stores were vacant in October, a slight improvement on the 10.5 per cent seen in July.

For the UK as a whole, the town centre vacancy rate was 11.3 per cent – the worst figure since nationwide surveys began in July 2011. A fifth of stores were lying empty in Northern Ireland, while the rate for Wales was 15.1 per cent.

SRC director Fiona Moriarty said: “It’s encouraging to see that there are fewer empty shops in Scotland compared with the last quarter, and the vacancy rate is below the UK average.

“Unfortunately that doesn’t mean people are doing more shopping. Footfall is down on a year ago for the 15th month in a row, confirming that continuing worries about jobs and the economy are really taking a toll on shopper numbers.”

The Office for National Statistics said last week that retailers experienced a worse-than-expected 0.8 per cent drop in sales during October, while a shock jump in the UK’s annual inflation rate to 2.7 per cent highlighted that incomes were coming under renewed pressure amid rising food prices.

Footfall in the three months to October was down 3.9 per cent compared with the same period last year, although the decline was narrower than the 8.2 per cent reported in the three months to July.