Scotland’s struggling retailers handed ‘flicker of hope’

SCOTTISH retailers have been given a “flicker of hope” that consumers are returning to bricks and mortar shops.

Shopper footfall in Scotland was down by 16.2 per cent in January compared with the same month two years previously, before the pandemic struck.

But January’s footfall showed a 6.6 percentage point improvement on December, according to SRC-Sensormatic IQ data, published today. The statistics come shortly after coronavirus restrictions began to be eased in Scotland, with mitigations relaxed in hospitality outlets and people given the green light to return to offices.

However visits to shopping centres remain in the doldrums. Shopping centre footfall in January was 36.6% down on two years ago and fell compared with December 2021, when it dropped by 31.9%.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Visits to Scotland’s retail destinations finally saw a slight improvement with January showing the least-worst footfall figures witnessed since the onset of the Covid crisis twenty-two months ago. Footfall was down by a sixth on pre-pandemic levels demonstrating there is still a long way to go before any return to normal trading. The modest uptick will provide retailers with a flicker of hope that Scots are beginning to rediscover the pleasure of in-person shopping as the Covid situation eases, which will hopefully be lifted further following the rescinding this week of the work-from-home order and the return of commuters and office workers.”

Mr Lonsdale added: “The upturn wasn’t felt across all retail destinations though. Footfall in shopping centres fared particularly poorly in January, recording its worst performance since lockdown ended last spring.”

“This is perhaps unsurprising as stores in shopping centres are often disproportionally geared towards fashion, which would have felt the impact of public health instructions to shun socialising. They may have been held back too as Scots reined in their discretionary spending after the festive period and as shoppers contemplated the recent rises in inflation.”

The latest SRC-Sensormatic IQ data also show that footfall in Glasgow was down by 17.6% on the two-year comparison, a 4.2 percentage point improvement on December.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said: “Total retail shopper traffic in Scotland improved on December’s figures, breaking the pre-Christmas plateau we had seen in footfall’s recovery and recovering to the highest point since the start of the pandemic.

“Retailers will be hoping this continued consumer confidence will remain and put a spring in to the step of the high street.”

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