Scottish shoppers are back out in force

The number of shoppers hitting Scotland’s high streets has been rising in recent months, retail chiefs have found.

The number of Scots hitting the stores rose by 1 per cent between May and July. Picture: Getty Images
The number of Scots hitting the stores rose by 1 per cent between May and July. Picture: Getty Images

The news follows record breaking sales figures in July, although the number of shoppers was down slightly for the month.

There was 1 per cent rise in Scots hitting the stores between May and July, the highest level anywhere in the UK outside Greater London, according to the study by analysts Springboard and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

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There are also fewer shops lying empty in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK, the figures show.

In Scotland, the rate was up slightly from 10 per cent in April to 10.1 per cent in July. This compares with 11.1 per cent for the UK.

For July alone, though, the number of shoppers in Scotland was 1.3 per cent lower than a year ago and dropped from the 1.2 per cent rise recorded in June 2013.

Fiona Moriarty, director of the SRC, said: “A slight fall in Scottish shopper numbers doesn’t initially chime with the record-breaking July sales growth we saw last week.

“However, a lot of the products that sold well were summer foods, fashion and outdoor living items: seasonal items for which a lot of us plan shopping trips rather than buying on a whim.

“Equally, lots of summer spending took place in the Highlands and Islands and coastal areas rather than town centres.

“The Scottish vacancy rate is broadly in line with the previous quarter and below the UK average, but the fact that over one in ten town centre units is standing empty remains a real cause for concern.

“July rounded off a strong quarter for sales growth, strengthening the sense of cautious optimism, but if the Scottish Government wants to support long-lasting recovery it should reduce the cost of doing business in our town centres.”

The UK figure shows a 2.3 per cent rise in the number of high-street shoppers and an equal decline at shopping centres while there was a 0.9 per cent increase in out-of-town shoppers.

Regionally, Northern Ireland and Wales also achieved growth with the numbers of shoppers 3 per cent and 0.8 per cent higher (respectively) than in 2012.

Diane Wehrle, retail Insights director at Springboard, said the figures for the UK indicated a long term improvement for footfall. She said: “Not only has footfall increased annually for the second month in a row, but the improvement in performance accelerated over the quarter, moving from a decline of -0.7 per cent in May to an increase of 0.1 per cent in June and 0.8 per cent in July.

“Whilst the recent hot weather undoubtedly supported activity in high streets in July with an increase of 2.3 per cent, the 1 per cent uplift in footfall over the quarter is likely to have contributed to a drop in the vacancy rate from 11.9 per cent in April to 11.1 per cent in July.

“It seems that occupiers are starting to return to the high street, suggesting a greater degree of optimism over future trading prospects and lending further support to the proposition the performance of retail locations is stabilising.

“Of slight concern is that the increase in footfall is not occurring across all location types, but is concentrated in external environments, high streets and retail parks.

“Shopping centres recorded a significant decline in footfall of -2.4 per cent over the quarter with a rate of decline that has increased from month to month, suggesting that covered malls are becoming less attractive retail destinations to shoppers.”