Scotland’s retailers are becoming “increasingly adept at harnessing the internet” as footfall continues to falter on the high street and in shopping centres, according to a survey out today.
The latest monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and Springboard does provides a “welcome glimmer of light” for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, however, with the shop vacancy rate falling to 8.7 per cent in the latest quarter from 10.6 per cent previously.
Footfall north of the Border was down 0.6 per cent in October compared with a year ago but that represents a small improvement on September’s 0.8 per cent decline.
Across the UK, footfall was 0.2 per cent lower last month than a year earlier, unchanged from the result in September.
The Springboard report is based on footfall counts at hundreds of shopping locations across more than 250 towns and cities in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Industry leaders welcomed the improvement in the shop vacancy rate and called on both the UK and Scottish governments to provide support for shops in upcoming budget statements.
David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, 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.
“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, added: “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.
“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.”
Four regions in England reported footfall growth in October, with the East Midlands continuing its strong performance.
UK-wide, the town centre vacancy rate was 9.1 per cent in the latest quarter, down from the 9.8 per cent in July and the lowest rate since data began being collected in July 2011.