PEOPLE in Scotland are the least happy shoppers in the UK according to an “alarming” survey of consumers’ views of the high street.
About one in six (14.61 per cent) said their local high street was “not useful for shopping of any kind”, compared to almost one in ten UK-wide (9.9 per cent) and more than in any other single area.
Almost one in three Scots (30 per cent) blamed empty shops for discouraging them from town centre shopping, also more than anywhere else and above the UK average of roughly one in five (22.1 per cent) who blamed vacant sites for putting them off the high street.
Although more people in Scotland visited their high streets daily to buy groceries than anywhere else in the UK outside London, roughly four out of five (83 per cent) said their town centre did not attract them for socialising, eating out or going to the cinema.
The survey of 1,000 shoppers across the UK was conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by retail specialist creative agency, Live and Breathe.
Nick Gray, managing director of Live and Breathe, said: “The fact that shoppers in Scotland are the least satisfied with their high streets is somewhat alarming for retailers in that region.
“The results suggest more needs to be done to make local high streets more than simply a place to shop, but somewhere to spend time with family or to socialise with friends.”
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) agreed that more action was needed to revitalise town centres. However, it said that the survey also showed that most shoppers still valued the high street. It also pointed out that although empty shops were a serious problem there were fewer of them in Scotland than in England.
SRC spokesman Richard Dodd said: “It’s good to see that such a high proportion of shoppers in Scotland value their high street, and in fact our own figures show that high street vacancies are below the UK average and have improved slightly in the past year.
He acknowledged that shop vacancies were an issue, with one in ten shops standing empty in Scottish high streets compared to one in eight south of the Border.
He added: “Those figures hide some big variations, and certainly shoppers in some parts of Scotland will have more reason to be concerned about high levels of shop vacancies than shoppers elsewhere.”
Other issues highlighted by the survey included parking, with 43.5 per cent of UK shoppers, and 38.2 per cent of consumers in Scotland, saying high charges and lack of spaces deterred them from town centres.
Although about 43 per cent of Brits and about 45 per cent of Scots expressed concern that the high street was in decline, 30 per cent (and nearly 35 per cent in Scotland) still chose to make purchases over the internet because it was cheaper.
Mr Gray added: “Shoppers face a tough decision – they want to support their high street, but they also seem to believe it’s more expensive and provides less choice.
“There’s a massive disconnect between what the shoppers say they want and what they’re doing. This means retailers will need to do more to reassure and engage shoppers.”