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Footfall lowest for three years

Better parking urged as shops slump further

David Lonsdale seriousScotland’s town centres continue to take a pounding as shoppers headed to out of town retail parks and online for Black Friday discounts.

The slump has prompted a further call from the retail industry for supportive action from the authorities, such as more free parking and better car access to shops.

The number of shoppers hitting the stores (footfall) last month fell 4.2% in Scotland – the worst since January 2013 – and 2.1% across the UK, compared with last year.

The biggest fall across the UK was in high streets and shopping centres – down 3.4%and 2.8% respectively – while the number of shoppers heading to retail parks increased 2% year-on-year.

David Lonsdale (pictured), director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said November was the seventh month in a row in which shopper footfall in town centres declined.

“Until the November data for Scottish retail sales is published later this week we won’t know what impact this plunge in footfall and surge in online shopping has on the total value of sales,” he said.

“Those retailers with a strong multichannel offer – allowing customers to shop in-store, at home and on the move – will have been well placed to capitalise on this further milestone in the development of our digital economy.”

He said retailers were awaiting action from John Swinney, the Finance Secretary.

“Retailers will be hoping that the Finance Minister’s twiddling of the fiscal dials in the Scottish Government’s Budget this week will help lift consumer spirits and generate greater levels of confidence and propensity to spend going forward,” said Mr Lonsdale.

“The retail industry is undergoing profound structural change at a time of weak demand and falling shop prices, and this requires supportive government policies which keep a tight lid on costs such as business rates, other taxes and levies and regulation.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, which compiles the figures, said: “The winners were those destinations that continue to adopt the old school rules of retail – the three C’s of convenience, choice and customer service.

“Retail parks have these core principles at the heart of their offer, and as a result footfall has increased annually in Scotland’s retail parks in all but one of the past 26 consecutive months, with an average increase of 5.2% over this period in contrast with an average drop in footfall of 1.7% in Scotland’s high streets and -2.3% in shopping centres.

“Shoppers are increasingly seeking out this traditional retail destination as either an alternative or complement to online as they have an expanding breadth of offer, together with a core edit of retail brands to choose from.

“There is an evident need for urban shopping destinations to see 2016 as an opportunity to focus on cracking the perennial issue of convenient parking options for shoppers, as most retail parks offer this free of charge. Such changes as improving easy access to town centres could ensure the decline in footfall observed in November, and throughout the year, is mitigated next year.”

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