By Karen Peattie

THE phased reopening of the retail sector in Scotland towards the end of April saw shoppers return to highs streets and shopping centres, bringing a much-needed boost to a sector battered by pandemic lockdowns.

Figures released by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and Sensormatic IQ revealed that footfall decreased by 52.1 per cent in April compared with the same period two years ago, a 14.2 percentage point increase from March.

Meanwhile, shopping centre footfall dropped by 59.0% in April (Yo2Y) in Scotland, up from -72.1% in March. Footfall in Glasgow saw a 51.8% (Yo2Y) drop, equating to a 16.4 percentage point improvement.

Describing the figures as “undoubtedly encouraging”, David Lonsdale, SRC director, warned that there “is some way to go before we can say that the industry has fully turned the page on the pandemic”.

“Parts of the economic ecosystem upon which some shops depend have yet to reopen – including some eateries, cinemas, and city centre offices,” he said, noting that retailers' operating stores will continue to remain higher in order to keep customers safe.

Noting that the next few months remain challenging, he added: “That’s why we encourage shoppers to make a point of getting out and supporting their favourite stores over the coming weeks, in turn helping to sustain these businesses and the local jobs they provide, as well as the vitality of our retail destinations.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA at Sensormatic Solutions, commented: “Retail beginning to unlock saw a promising boost for the UK high street. While footfall still remains 40% down compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, consumer demand signals for a return to in-store shopping were promising.

“However, retailers will be hoping that the lift in shopper traffic as they reopen can be sustained past pent-up demand in order to fuel long-term recovery. Our research shows an overwhelming amount of consumer support for bricks-and-mortar retail, with 71% of shoppers vowing to make a conscious effort to shop in-store once retail’s reopened, with many having missed the experience of in-store shopping when lockdown shuttered shops and other saying ‘screen fatigue’ had set in."