THE retail recovery continues to be stronger in Scotland than the rest of the UK as latest figures show a 0.5 per cent rise in footfall in October – compared to a 0.8 per cent dip elsewhere in Britain.
The number of shops which are lying empty on Scottish high streets also fell slightly to 9 per cent – the lowest in the UK, and below the British average of 10.3 per cent.
However, a report from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) warned the figure could rise again over the next year due to a large number of leases being due to expire in December 2015, giving retailers the chance to dispose of locations which are not performing well.
Footfall in Scotland has increased every month bar one since Easter, the report said, but experts warned that for a real recovery, the increase in the number of people visiting shops needed to translate into higher spend.
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David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: “This is a chipper set of results on footfall and vacancies as we now head into the important Christmas shopping period.
“Retailers’ promotions and new ranges helped drive footfall on Scotland’s high streets and shopping centres up for the fourth month in a row in October, albeit the rate of growth has eased compared to recent months. Footfall has increased every month bar one since Easter, though the trick as ever is converting this into actual sales.”
Retail parks, where footfall rose by 1.9 per cent across the UK, also recorded a higher increase of 3.4 per cent in Scotland. UK-wide, in-town shopping centres reported the largest decline, falling 1.9 per cent, while high streets experienced a 1.4 per cent decline in footfall.
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, which co-authored the report, said: “The positive performance of Scotland’s retail locations continued in October, with an increase in footfall for the fourth month in row.
“Even more encouraging was that in contrast with the UK, footfall in Scottish high streets increased by 0.5 per cent, with only shopping centres seeing a drop over the year from October 2013.
“So it seems that retail locations in Scotland are exhibiting a far greater degree of resilience than those across the UK as a whole, and this is reflected in its vacancy rate of 9 per cent, which is noticeably lower than the average of 10.3 per cent across the UK. Also, in contrast with the UK, the vacancy rate in Scotland has fallen since January this year.
“However, this trend is likely to shift upwards over the next year as the large number of retail leases that are due to expire over the period to December 2015 will inevitably offer retailers an opportunity to vacate poorer performing locations.”
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