Amid inflation alert...

Shoppers make tentative return to high street

high street shopping at Easter
Shops saw a promising improvement (pic: Terry Murden)

Shoppers made a tentative return to stores last month even though the figures remain sharply down on pre-pandemic trends.

Scottish footfall fell by 14.8% in April compared to the same month in 2019, 6.3 percentage points better than March.

This is worse than the UK average decline of 13.1% (Yo3Y) which was 2.3% better than in March. 

Scotland’s shopping centre footfall was down 20% in April (Yo3Y), though this was also an improvement on the 32% decline in March. 

The signs of improvement come amid warnings from the Bank of England that inflation could hit 10% this year, putting pressure on consumers’ spending capacity.

David Lonsdale, director at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:   “April saw a more promising set of figures for visits to stores in Scotland. Buoyed by the easing of Covid restrictions and the return of commuters and tourism, the uplift in shopper footfall was particularly noticeable in our city centres and shopping centres.  

“Of course, one swallow does not make a summer, and it remains true that visits to stores are still somewhat shy of pre-pandemic levels.

“However, several indicators crucial to the health of Scotland’s retail industry – retail sales, shop vacancies and now shopper footfall – are each beginning to point in a more favourable direction.

“The challenge will be to sustain this improvement in the months ahead as economic headwinds affecting both consumer and business sentiment and spending power exert their grip.” 

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, commented: “At face value, this is all positive and welcome news for retailers as Scottish footfall recovery continues, however, it comes with a caveat that this only captures store visits, rather than reflecting what’s being rung through the tills. 

“As shoppers feel the pinch of the rising cost-of-living and face downward pressures on their disposable incomes, conversions and basket sizes risk being reduced, so retailers – especially non-discounters or value brands – will need to work even harder to earn share of wallet and shopper loyalty in-store.” 

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