Hopes of Jubilee boost as Scotland’s retail footfall growth ‘worst in UK' compared to 2019

Scotland’s shopper footfall growth has been ranked the worst in the UK compared with pre-pandemic levels, statistics show.

Data from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and Sensormatics’ footfall monitor found that retail is struggling to bounce back from the pandemic.

Covering the May period, Scottish footfall decreased by 16.4 per cent compared with 2019 levels, and while footfall across the UK has worsened from pre-pandemic levels, Scotland’s score is worse than the UK average decline of 12.5 per cent.

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However there are signs of improvement in shopping centre footfall, with a 19.7 per cent decline noted in May compared with 2019 an improvement on the 20 per cent decline in April.

SRC director David Lonsdale said that on top of the pandemic’s impact on retail, ScotRail cancellations and the cost-of-living crisis are likely to be responsible for the lack of shoppers.

He said: “Scotland’s fitful footfall slipped back in May compared to the same period prior to the pandemic. This left Scotland languishing at the bottom of the UK league table for visits to stores, and still well below the same period prior to the onset of Covid.

“The figures weakened during the latter part of the month, perhaps derailed somewhat by the train drivers’ dispute.

Scottish footfall in May decreased by 16.4 per cent compared with 2019 levels (file image). Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

“However, the performance wasn’t uniform across all retail destinations. Visits to shopping centres improved slightly and for a fourth consecutive month, whilst in Glasgow it remained on par with the month before, which was the joint best performance so far this calendar year.

“Hopefully, this dip in foot traffic will prove temporary although concerns over the economic outlook, rising cost of living and continued absence of some commuters remain.

“Meanwhile, there remains a question mark over the government’s mooted return to city centres visitor campaign and the cash disbursed to local councils recently to aid city centre recovery and whether they are having much impact on generating the footfall that is so urgently needed.”

According to the growth table, Scotland’s growth ranks bottom compared with the rest of the UK, while North-west England noted the lowest decline, of 8.2 per cent. In May, footfall in Glasgow decreased by 11.6 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels, and remains unchanged from April.

Rankings

It is fourth overall in the UK, compared with UK cities, with Leeds ranking bottom with a 19 per cent decline and Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham outranking Scotland’s largest city.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “Total Scottish retail footfall slipped back slightly this May against pre-pandemic levels.

“With households already starting to feel the pinch of the rising cost of living and growing inflationary pressures, retailers are already seeing the impact it can have on footfall recovery.

“As they look ahead to June, retailers will be hoping that high streets will be rallied by the Jubilee weekend celebrations and that the event will prompt ambient shopper traffic and retail spend.”

Last month’s study found that footfall to Scottish shops decreased by 14.8 per cent in April, but was an improvement of 6.3 per cent compared to March.

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