Shopper numbers were still significantly lower in Scotland during July, compared with two years ago, despite an easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show a 27.1% drop in “footfall” north of the border.
Northern Ireland, Wales and England suffered declines of 19.9%, 25.8% and 28.7% as huge numbers of people throughout the UK showed a continued reluctance to venture into town and city centres, or out-of-town retail parks.
Retail is some way from recovering from the effects of Covid.”
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Scottish Retail Consortium
Total UK footfall decreased by 28% last month, compared with July 2019, reflecting a slight worsening of the three-month average decline of 27.7%.
Footfall on high streets was down by an even steeper 34.6%, with retail parks suffering a 15% drop. Shopping Centre footfall declined by 38.4%.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs for BRC’s operation representing retailers north of the border, said: “There is little sign Scottish shoppers are returning to retail destinations in the same numbers they did before the pandemic.
“Whilst July saw a small improvement in shopper visits to retail destinations on the previous month, footfall continues to be more than a quarter down on the equivalent month in 2019.
“As we have seen in recent months, out-of-town destinations continue to do best, whilst high streets, and especially shopping centres struggle to attract shoppers.”
Mr MacDonald-Russell added: “With most Covid restrictions ending from August 9, retailers will hope there is a late-summer surge to Scotland’s shops.
“If that doesn’t transpire, Scottish ministers should urgently consider what interventions they could make to encourage consumers back to the high street.
“This could be through temporary free parking, an advertising campaign to encourage people back to city centres, or a high street voucher scheme like Northern Ireland is introducing.
“Despite the slight improvement this month, it’s clear retail is some way from recovering from the effects of Covid.”
The July footfall research was carried out in partnership with Sensormatic IQ, part of international smart buildings specialist Johnson Controls.
Europe, Middle East and Africa retail consultant Andy Sumpter, of Sensormatic Solutions, said: “With July’s wet weather dampening shoppers’ spirits, high street footfall stayed subdued as consumers remained cautious.
The Euros effect
“Even the hotly debated ‘Freedom Day’ (in England) failed to significantly shift the dial on shopper counts, perhaps losing some of its ‘shine’ to the Euros, which brought forward shopping and socialising trips to earlier in the month.
“And in a tale of two halves, Freedom Day may have split consumer confidence, with those revelling in newfound freedoms increasing the frequency of their shopping trips, while those concerned about the relaxation of restrictions on social distancing and mask-wearing becoming more inclined to stay away.”