Boxing Day boost for Scottish stores but footfall still less than pre-Covid

Footfall was up more than 14% across Scotland’s retail destinations this year, according to retail analysts.

Boxing Day shopper footfall was up more than 14% across Scotland’s retail destinations this year, according to analysts.

High streets saw a 25% increase in shoppers on December 26 last year, while retail parks enjoyed a 9.4% rise compared with 2022, retail analysts MRI Software said.

Shopping centres saw a 2.9% dip in visitors, however, and overall footfall remained 27.4% lower than pre-pandemic levels, their figures show.

The analysts said an increase in online shopping and fewer opportunities for retailers to make reductions on Boxing Day plus the continuing cost of living crisis could account for the lower figures.

Going back further, MRI Software said December saw an overall 6.2% rise in shoppers visiting retail destinations from the previous month, predominantly boosted by the final trading week before Christmas.

Shopping centres benefited the most with a 16.2% increase in buyers followed by retail parks (plus 6.2%) and high streets (plus 1.2%) but overall footfall was still down 1.9% from last year.

Jenni Matthews, marketing and insights director at MRI Software, explained: “The month began on a weak note, with footfall declining by an average of minus 1.1% in the first two weeks across all retail destinations from the week before, however, this was much more noticeable in high streets where footfall dropped by an average of minus 4.6%.

“This was likely influenced by rail disruptions and poor weather deterring people from venturing out.

“However, as we approached the pivotal festive trading period footfall took an optimistic turn with the penultimate Christmas week seeing footfall reach plus 8.2% and then growing to plus 12.6% in that all important last week before Christmas.

“This final week of Christmas trading was largely driven by activity in retail parks and shopping centres where footfall increased by plus 22.4% and plus 15.1%, respectively, from the week before as consumers made that last minute dash for gifts and groceries.

“High streets also witnessed a surge in activity, however, this was much more noticeable in the penultimate trading week where footfall rose by plus 13.4% from the week before.”

Looking ahead, Ms Matthews predicted shopper footfall will drop sharply over the coming weeks but said numbers should improve as workers return to their offices.

“As we look ahead to January, a natural post-Christmas slump is anticipated, with footfall projected to decline in the region of minus 20% to minus 25%,” she said.

“Weather warnings across the country may lead to subdued footfall at the start of the month. However, this should improve as the month progresses, compared to 2023 levels, particularly with more and more employees returning to offices.

“The financial constraints felt in the latter part of 2023 for many consumers are likely to continue into the early part of 2024, which may also impact footfall in Scotland’s retail destinations.”

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