Shopper footfall in Scotland fell by half in December 2020 in comparison with the previous year, according to an industry body.
The British Retail Consortium-ShopperTrak data shows visitors to shops decreased by 50.2% in December.
While this was up 8.9% from November the data shows footfall declining rapidly towards the end of the year and into January as coronavirus restrictions took their toll.
The research analysed trends over the five weeks from November 29, 2020 to January 2, 2021.
Footfall steadily rose for the first three weeks of the period, with a decline in the final two weeks.
In the final week – during which all of mainland Scotland moved into Tier 4 of coronavirus restrictions with non-essential retail forced to close – footfall fell to the lowest levels since May of last year.
The data shows Scotland had the shallowest shopping centre footfall decline in the UK, at 43.8%.
In Glasgow, footfall decreased by 59.8% in December, with a 10.8% decrease from November.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Caught in a pincer movement between widespread local lockdowns at the start of the month and a nationwide lockdown at the end of December, this was the worst performance since the first national lockdown ended for non-food shops back in June.
“It rounded off an incredibly tough festive trading period and a truly dismal 2020 for much of Scotland’s retail industry, particularly those in more discretionary categories many of whom had been forcibly shuttered for half of the past 10 months.”
He said the data illustrates an “unnerving start to the year for many retailers”.
“Even when stores are eventually permitted to re-emerge from this enforced hibernation, it is likely many will continue to suffer from lower shopper footfall,” he said.
“Whilst a return to trading is crucial, it will not be a panacea for the sector. That’s why we hope to see a recovery plan from government to get retail moving once again, including early visibility over continued business rates relief for the coming financial year, and short-term stimulus to boost consumer spending once shops can reopen through a high street voucher scheme.”
Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said: “Not even the advent of festive season could turn around the fortunes of the high street in December.”
He added: “December had started promisingly, with shopper counts recovering at the start of the month, boosted by shoppers’ get-ahead gift buying.
“But footfall soon fell away as UK consumers faced the prospect of tougher restrictions – from tighter tiers, to impending lockdowns and smaller shorted Christmases.
“While this recovery was short-lived, it did at least serve to save some valuable Christmas trade.”