‘Big, bold action’ needed to boost retail in Scotland post-pandemic

The Scottish Retail Consortium has urged ministers to introduce a voucher scheme similar to Northern Ireland.

‘Big, bold action’ needed to boost retail in Scotland post-pandemic iStock

The Government has been urged to take “big, bold action” to boost retail as latest data revealed footfall in Scotland’s stores is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

The number of people going through the doors of Scotland’s stores was 17% lower than October 2019, new data from the Scottish Retail Consortium has revealed.

David Lonsdale, its director, urged ministers to take the “big, bold action” their counterparts in Northern Ireland did to “reignite their economy and to back shops which have been clobbered by the pandemic”.

“Here in Scotland our city centres and retail destinations have been left reeling by the pandemic and associated lockdowns and restrictions too,” he said.

“Shopper footfall remains below pre-pandemic levels, store vacancies have spiked to a six-year high, and stores have lost out on billions of revenues. It would be great to see some sort of consumer stimulus here in Scotland to entice shoppers back and get our economy firing again.”

Only London is behind Scotland in terms of footfall. In the UK capital, the number of people through its stores’ doors was 21.4% down compared to October 2019.

The north west of England was the least affected area, with footfall down 8.7%, with south-west England down 10% and Northern Ireland down 10.8%.

Mr Lonsdale said Northern Ireland retailers were seeing a “noticeable boost from last month’s introduction of a high street voucher scheme”, in which residents were handed a £100 voucher to spend in local shops.

There is a ray of sunshine for Scottish retailers, with footfall climbing by 2.7 percentage points between September and October, and footfall has now reached its highest levels of the year compared to before the pandemic.

“The improvement was felt across all retail destinations, although the recovery in Scottish footfall remains protracted and continues to lag every other part of the UK other than London,” said Mr Lonsdale.

“This renewed level of physical shopping will lift retailers’ spirits in the most critical trading period of the year for many. It comes days after the positive news that Scottish ministers will not progress plans to close shops on New Year’s Day.”

Scottish shopping centre footfall declined by 26.3% in October, compared with the same month in 2019, which is up from a drop of 30.1% in September.

In Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, footfall decreased by 18.4% when comparing it with October 2019. This was a 2.4% increase from September.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, said the boost in footfall could be put down to half term and Halloween, which has become retail’s third biggest event after Christmas and Easter.

“Some of the lift in footfall performance, which saw retail parks in particular rise to their highest point of recovery since the start of the pandemic, may also be attributed to early Christmas spend, as retailers brought forward Christmas range launches to help smooth out supply chain bumps ahead of the peak trading period and consumers also indicated they would shop earlier for the festive season this year,” he added.

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