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The sales are on – but where are the shoppers? Concern at poor footfall after Christmas

Reece Wright of Manifesto in Commercial St, Dundee.
Reece Wright of Manifesto in Commercial St, Dundee.

The sales are on, but many bargain hunters are staying home.

Retailers in Tayside and Fife say many shoppers are not venturing out to take advantage of Christmas sales this year.

New figures from the Overgate Shopping Centre in Dundee show just 17,000 customers visited on Boxing Day.

This is less than half of the 36,000 through the doors on December 26 two years ago. Restrictions meant the centre wasn’t open on Boxing Day last year.

Dundee's Murraygate on December 28
Dundee’s Murraygate on December 28 with many shops reporting poor footfall.

Independent retailers across Courier Country are saying the same thing – Covid means people are more likely to look for deals online than in physical stores.

‘A lot of shops are standing bare’

Manifesto Clothing in Dundee’s Commercial Street is known for its heavy discounts on branded goods.

But this year the customers aren’t coming in the same numbers.

Store manager Reece Wright said: “It’s definitely not been as busy as it’s been in previous years.

Manifesto
Manifesto’s neon green sale signs are not drawing customers in the same volumes this year.

“The city centre is quiet – a lot of shops are standing bare – there’s no Zara, no Debenhams. It’s dead and it has a knock on effect.

“We’ve got up to 50% off. We used to have people queueing out the door. Now it’s more hit and miss if customers come.”

Changing habits and Covid concerns

The Overgate said it had a successful period before Christmas, with footfall up 32% on last year.

But the number of shoppers on Boxing Day was well down on previous years.

Centre manager Malcolm Angus said: “Looking back to 2019, it represents a footfall reduction of more than half.

Overgate Shopping Centre manager Malcolm Angus
Overgate Shopping Centre manager Malcolm Angus on the centre’s sales footfall.

“These figures would suggest the public health messaging and latest restrictions are making people more cautious.”

Kashif Ahmed, manager of Arkive on Arbroath High Street, said: “I’ve found it quiet as well to be honest. We always do a good sale but it’s definitely down on previous years due to Covid.

“Footfall is just not the same any more. The whole of Arbroath is quiet.

“I think people’s habits have changed now – they are more likely to do things online. All stores are struggling.

“We can only have the right stock in place, it’s up to consumers if they want to come.”

Family time a priority this year?

Meanwhile Claire Graham, assistant manager of Rogerson Shoes in Market Street, St Andrews, said they were not nearly as busy as previous years for their Christmas sale.

She said: “It’s a big reduction in what we’d normally take and also in terms of sales footfall.

“We are getting busy flurries but it’s not as consistent as it would normally be. All of our stock is discounted. The town is quiet.

“Boxing Day was a Sunday and obviously Covid has an impact. I also think more people are enjoying family time this year as they didn’t get to do it last year.”

Garry Smith, owner of Concorde Record Store in Perth, said trading had been disappointing.

Last week, on the run up to Christmas, it was about a third as busy as a normal year. Meanwhile online orders increased.

Garry Smith and his son Craig at Concorde Music in Scott Street, Perth.
Garry Smith and his son Craig at Concorde Music in Scott Street, Perth.

He said: “December trading was down completely and it was tough.

“In the run up to Christmas, nobody was around, the town was very quiet and people were staying away.

“As a local, small, family business we are concerned about the uncertainty of the future, we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a difficult time.”

But Ewan Philp, marketing director of at home furniture shop Gillies, said the shops in Broughty Ferry, Montrose and Perth, are busy.

He said: “The pandemic seems to have spurred a few people on to home renovations.

“We are grateful to have had very loyal customers. Overall we are just very grateful for everyone sticking with us.”

Sales footfall down across UK

National figures from analyst Springboard found post-Christmas footfall in the UK is down 45% against 2019.

The British Retail Consortium said that, although many consumers shunned the shops, the sector could see a boost due to online trade.

Shoppers outside the Overgate Shopping Centre on December 28.
Shoppers outside the Overgate Shopping Centre on December 28. Overgate’s footfall for the sales is down on 2019.

Tom Holder, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium, said: “The spread of Omicron across the UK has increased the share of spending made online as many consumers avoided town and city centres.

“Retailers are waiting to see whether this leads to higher spending on retail goods, particularly food and homeware.”

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