COP26 disruption hit footfall to Glasgow shops

Disruption from COP26 hit Glasgow businesses, pushing footfall 22 per cent lower last month – the worst of the 11 UK cities surveyed, according to new analysis from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

The SRC said transport restrictions and demonstrations associated with hosting the climate change summit, which ran from October 31 to November 12, had deterred people from visiting city centre shops, resulting in the weakest footfall figures in the city in five months.

Overall, Scottish footfall fell by 19.8 per cent last month, below the UK average decline of 15.7 per cent and for the fourth consecutive month, the deepest drop in footfall of all UK nations.

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Shopping centres across Scotland were particularly badly affected, as footfall fell by 28 per cent in November compared to the same time two years ago.

Glasgow footfall saw one of the weakest performances in the UK last month, possibly due to COP26.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said the month had been “disappointing” for retailers, who had hoped for a lift ahead of the festive period.

He said: “Shopper visits were down a fifth on the comparable period two years ago, with Scotland again languishing behind every part of the UK other than London.

"Footfall shrivelled across all retail destinations, with the dip in Glasgow more pronounced and the weakest in five months.

"Indeed, Glasgow recorded the weakest performance of the 11 UK cities surveyed, which bore out anecdotal reports from some retailers about the adverse short-term impact on footfall from the transport restrictions and demonstrations associated with hosting COP26. The recent spike in the cost of living has also weighed on household finances.”

He added: “These dreich figures are profoundly worrying and come during what could be a make-or-break festive trading period for some firms with the industry.”

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Stuart Patrick, chief executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, called for continued rates relief into next year.

He said: “These latest figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium further underline the situation Glasgow city centre finds itself in as it continues to struggle with recovery from the pandemic.

"Footfall rates remain well below the level needed for the health of our economy and COP26 has sadly made the situation worse, with the arrival of Omicron delivering more bleak news for businesses serving the city centre, especially smaller independent outlets with limited financial reserves.”

He added: "Several shops and hospitality venues in Glasgow city centre are now confirmed as permanently closed while others are fervently hoping for a decent Christmas season to support survival into 2022.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, which co-authored the report, said: “Usually in November we’d expect to see a boost to the High Street due to Black Friday, which traditionally marks the start of Christmas spending.

"However, whilst we saw footfall rise by a third week-on-week, shopper numbers on Black Friday were still down on pre-pandemic levels by about a fifth, which maybe down to polarised flux in Christmas shopping behaviours we’re witnessing.

"Those who have bought early in a bid to avoid crowds and minimise risks of supply chain disruption have shopped even earlier this year, contributing to October’s boost and November’s lull. Meanwhile we still expect to see those ‘last-minute’ shoppers hitting the High Streets in December.”

Of the 11 UK cities surveyed, only Belfast saw a rise in footfall, with London the second worst after Glasgow.

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