Cost of living crisis 'may challenge signs of recovery in retail sector'

Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium showed that footfall to Scottish shops decreased by 14.8% in April.

Signs of high street recovery but cost of living is challenge, says trade group iStock

Retail footfall in Scotland last month showed promising signs of recovery but experts warn it will be challenging to sustain the trend amid the cost of living crisis.

Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium showed that footfall to Scottish shops decreased by 14.8% in April. This is an improvement of 6.3% compared to March.

Visits to shopping centres decreased by 20% in April which is an improvement on the decline of 32% in March.

Footfall in Glasgow decreased by 11.6% which was 7.9% better than in March.

The figures have been compared to the same period in 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic affecting retail opening over the last two years.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said shops have been buoyed by the easing of Covid restrictions as well as people who had previously worked from home returning to offices.

He said: “The uplift in shopper footfall was particularly noticeable in our city centres and shopping centres.

Mr Lonsdale warned, however, that the challenge will be to sustain the trend.

He added: “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, a retail consultant for Sensormatic Solutions, said the figures only capture visits to store and the size of shoppers’ baskets may be reduced due to the cost of living crisis.

He said: “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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