Scots footfall quickly gains pace after non-essential stores reopen

Scottish footfall was “well above” expectations as non-essential stores reopened after lockdown, vastly outpacing the comparable rate seen in England, according to new figures from Ipsos.

It found that shopper numbers were down by “just” 6.2 per cent in the first week after welcoming back customers on Monday April 26, compared to the same period in 2019.

By contrast, store footfall was down by about 30 per cent during the first week of trading in England and Wales – starting on April 12.

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The latest figures follow in the footsteps of the most recent sales monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG, published a few days before non-essential shops reopened in Scotland.

Shoppers pictured on Monday 26 April, which saw footfall rise 21.8 per cent compared to 2019 levels. Picture: John Devlin.
Shoppers pictured on Monday 26 April, which saw footfall rise 21.8 per cent compared to 2019 levels. Picture: John Devlin.
Shoppers pictured on Monday 26 April, which saw footfall rise 21.8 per cent compared to 2019 levels. Picture: John Devlin.
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That study found that total sales north of the Border fell by 13.8 per cent in March compared with the same period in 2019, when they had increased by 0.3 per cent – and it flagged “encouraging signs” that consumers were preparing to resume shopping when lockdown restrictions eased.

The sales monitor moved to a two-year from a year-on-year comparison to provide a more meaningful picture of trading – and Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said that if people continued to favour online shopping and not return to bricks-and-mortar shops “it will pose very significant questions for the future of physical retail stores”.

A survey from Visa also published in the run-up to April 26 said consumers were looking forward to being able to touch and try items, also looking to combine in-store visits with online.

Ipsos said Scottish shoppers were indeed eager to return to stores, with the first day of trading seeing footfall rise 21.8 per cent compared to 2019 levels. Tuesday and Wednesday that week also saw uplifts in shopper numbers.

Dr Tim Denison, head of analytics and insights at the market research firm, said: “It’s very clear that consumers are celebrating their return to the shops following their closure from Boxing Day. Their love of shopping and its sociable nature are elements dear to the heart of Scots, so it is uplifting, if not totally surprising, that the early footfall data are so encouraging.”

Digital shoppers

However, a separate survey has found that people in Scotland are shopping 43 per cent more online since the start of the pandemic, despite both more than a fifth earning less than before the outbreak, and increased footfall since non-essential shops reopened.

Brightpearl, which provides digital operations for major retail brands, found that seven in ten Scottish people are buying online more frequently, and just over half now buy products via the internet that they had previously only ever brought physically in store.

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Derek O’Carroll is the chief executive of Brightpearl, which is compiling a league table of the fastest-growing online retailers. He said: “There has been a big shift to online post-Covid, and with Brits stuck at home for most of the last year, online deliveries have been one of the rare highlights of our stay-at-home life. Our own data shows many multichannel retailers reporting incredible growth rates.”

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