Action needed to stem decline in footfall

Shoppers

Scottish footfall numbers for July showed a 2.4% drop compared to the same period last year, according to the latest SRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor. This was unchanged from the June rate. The report also found the vacancy rate at 10.6%, a slight rise from 10.4% in the previous quarter.

The UK as a whole didn’t fare as badly, with footfall dropping 1.1% and a vacancy rate of 9.8%.

The figures, which herald a third successive spike in the shop vacancy rate in town centres coupled with a further drop in shopper footfall, left David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium with little to cheer about.

“Almost one out of every nine retail premises in Scotland now sits empty,” he commented. “Encouraging shoppers back is crucial to reducing the number of vacant premises, however shopper footfall shrivelled once again last month albeit against a strong comparable in the same period last year.”

Lonsdale called for a more concerted effort to drive up footfall and reduce the number of empty retail premises in town centres. He said local councils should “place more emphasis on accessible and affordable parking and a building standards system that better facilitates retail refurbishment and expansion.”

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and Insights Director at Springboard, added: “The more severe drop in footfall in Scotland’s high streets and shopping centres compared with the UK is likely to be one of the reasons for the worsening of the vacancy rate. The growth in activity in retail parks in Scotland – which started five months earlier than across the UK in August 2013 and which is escalating – is likely to lead to a further deterioration in the vacancy rate over the coming months unless some key initiatives are implemented to boost town centre trade.”