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One in ten units now empty despite rise in shoppers


Empty shop unit in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street (pic: Terry Murden)

One in ten shops are lying empty in Scotland despite a welcome increase in shoppers on the high street.

The vacancy rate soared to 10.3%, its worst since the 9.8% in July, prompting further demands for action on business rates.

However, while Scottish retail parks suffered their biggest decline (down 2.3%) since March, overall footfall in October was better than anywhere else in the UK, up 0.4% against a decline of 3.2% across the UK.

On the high street by 1.8%. Shopping Centres also saw growth of 0.2%, which was also the best of all regions and the only one to show growth.

Retail leaders said the return of shoppers to high streets would provide some relief following months of uncertainty and rising costs.

The latest data follows the collapse of Mothercare and problems at Mamas & Papas and the greetings card chain Clintons which is considering shop closures and rent cuts as part of a survival plan.

Clintons, which has about 2,500 staff, is in restructuring talks with landlords in another sign of the high street crisis.

David Lonsdale, director at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the rise in shop vacancies was “a cause for concern” and “a visible reminder of why a reduction in business rates – which are at a 20-year high – is so important.” 

He added: “Given that backdrop, last month’s modest uplift in shopper footfall comes as welcome relief.

“While footfall growth was uneven across retail destinations, the increase does provide a chink of light at the start of the crucial ‘golden quarter’ of retail spend in the lead up to Black Friday and Christmas.”

However, Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, noted: “It doesn’t take much to deter shoppers and the torrential rain in the last week of the month hit footfall particularly hard, resulting in a drop in Scotland over those seven days of 2.7%.

“Scotland’s vacancy rate reflects the fact that vacancies typically lag behind footfall trends.”

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