SCOTS have stayed away from shops over this summer amid high personal borrowing and continued failure of real incomes to recover from the financial crash a decade ago.

The latest health check on the high street showed footfall down again, by 0.4 per cent in July compared with a year before, with nearly one in 10 retail outlets now vacant.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said the figures were “rather cheerless” and warned high street and mall businesses were going to have to work harder to lure hard-pressed shoppers.

The retail downturn in Scotland comes after a clutch of hard economic numbers suggested the whole of Britain had suffered a lost decade.

Football figures fell even faster than in Scotland in most other parts of the UK, where the average drop was more than one per cent. London, Northern Ireland, the East Midlands and South West all suffered two-per-cent drops.

Wages across Britain have failed to keep up with inflation - the latest burst in prices coming after the Brexit vote caused the pound to crash.

In May official forecasts showed that UK workers can expect to earn less in 2021 than they did in 2008. In the EU, only Greece has matched the UK’s poor performance on pay packets since the crash.

The Bank of England says it expects real wages to grow again next year. But retailers appear to have felt the effects of lower spending power.

SRC’s Ewan MacDonald-Russell, said: “This is a rather cheerless set of figures, heralding a second successive quarterly increase in the shop vacancy rate in our town centres coupled with shopper footfall sagging last month.

“Indeed, shopper footfall fell at a more pronounced rate of decline than witnessed over the past three-month period as a whole.

“Almost one out of every ten retail premises in Scotland now sits empty. Encouraging shoppers back is crucial to reducing the number of vacant premises, and retailers and shopping destinations are clearly going to have to work harder to attract custom through a blend of improvements including service, ranges, pricing and promotions.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell urged further efforts to “recast” business rates to give retailers an opportunity to invest in their offerings.

Diane Wehrle, of Springboard, which produced the figures, said: “July’s results might well mark a sea change in consumers’ willingness to spend, as it was the first time since January that footfall dropped during both retail trading hours and into the evening across the UK.

“In Scotland, daytime and early evening footfall dropped in July (by -1 per cent during the day and by -0.5 per cent between 5pm and 8pm), although a rise of +3.5 per cent in night time footfall demonstrated some resilience. Over the last few months the growing importance of the leisure based trip has become a key part of the narrative when talking about retail destinations, and this is evidence of a tightening of purse strings on casual dining and leisure trips.”

Declining footfall demonstrates that the drop in non-food sales is due to a reduced number of shoppers, so retailers that maintain their in-store footfall are at a clear advantage.”

She added: “These results together with the high level of consumer borrowing and an increase in the vacancy rate to 9.3 per cent from 9.2 per cent in April – the highest it’s been since July 2015 - suggest that trading conditions could be reaching a tipping point into a period of restraint.” Scottish vacancies are just below the UK average.

There was better news for out-of-town retail parks, which saw footfall up by more than two per cent in July.

City centre business lobbyists have cited begging and anti-social behaviour as potentially putting off customers. The chief executive of Glasgow’s Chamber of Commerce , Stuart Patrick, this weekend agreed to meet homeless people on the streets after a business survey found one in three businesses felt begging affected their trade.

Mr Patrick told the Sunday Mail newspaper: “It’s important this issue is kept on the public agenda for the sack of the people affected in our city centres, both those who are working to hard to build their businesses and those who are begging on the streets.”