SCOTTISH shoppers continued to prove elusive in February, with high streets and retail centres suffering another decline in footfall against an improving backdrop for the UK as a whole.
The latest footfall monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) showed shopper numbers were down 2.5 per cent, better than January’s 6.3 per cent decline but worse than the UK as a whole, which saw a small improvement
SRC director Fiona Moriarty said the findings agreed with other measures of the retail economy which showed the trading environment remained in a perilous state.
She said: “Scottish footfall levels in February continued to be below the UK average. This tallies with lower levels of consumer confidence and lower levels of sales growth.
“Although February’s sales figures showed some encouraging signs of improvement we are reminded that the economic and trading environment remains fragile.”
She said Scottish retailers were hoping that the arrival of spring and seasonal lifts from Mother’s Day and Easter would help to elevate the “underwhelming” footfall figure into more positive territory in the coming months.
Despite the fact that the UK economy is struggling to generate momentum and could be on the brink of an unprecedented “triple dip” recession, shoppers showed signs of returning to high streets south of the Border.
Footfall across the UK in February was 0.8 per cent higher than a year ago, an improvement on the 4.6 per cent decline seen in January.
High streets enjoyed their strongest growth since December 2011, with visitors up 2.7 per cent. Footfall in shopping centres and out-of-town locations fell by 1.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the figures support the recent uplift in retail sales reported by the its last sales monitor, which saw total sales growth reach a three year high.
Diane Wehrle, research director at customer counting firm Springboard – which produces the figures for the BRC and SRC – said relatively poor performance of shopping centres and retail parks could be due to the collapse of certain chain retailers.
She added: “For the high street, one swallow does not make a summer, but these results might hint at the green shoots of recovery, or at least some stabilisation in the current environment.”
Springboard also gathers data on vacancy rates in towns and cities via an online survey of town centre managers in 450 locations throughout the UK and the figures also show Scotland missing out on the positive trend for the UK as a whole.
It found that 10.2 per cent of units north of the Border were vacant in January, compared to 9.9 per cent when the survey was last carried out, in October.
The UK wider figure improved from 11.3 per cent to 10.9 per cent, although vacancy rates in Wales and Northern Ireland remain at around 17 per cent. In the greater London area, the figure is just 6.3 per cent.