By Karen Peattie

SCOTTISH shoppers remained reluctant to get back out to popular retail destinations last month as the Scottish Retail Consortium reveals footfall fell by 16.5 per cent in July compared with the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.

This was 0.7 percentage points worse than in June and worse than the UK average decline of 14.2%.

In July, footfall in Glasgow decreased by 13.6% with Edinburgh footfall decreasing by 13.5%. Footfall in shopping centres declined by 19.2% in July, although this was an improvement on the decline of 19.9% in June.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Scottish retail locations continue to struggle to attract customers after recording a third successive month with the weakest retail footfall figures in the UK.

“Footfall across all locations fell to -16.5% compared to pre-pandemic trading – the worst figures since March. Edinburgh and Glasgow both outperformed the national average, albeit both cities fell back from June’s performance.”

Noting that the fall in Edinburgh was “particularly disappointing” after June’s better performance, he said: “Both of Scotland’s largest cities will be hoping August attracts more visitors, especially in Edinburgh as the festival fully returns.

“As the year progresses there is little evidence Scottish consumers are close to returning to pre-pandemic shopping patterns. That is an intense concern for high street retailers who now face higher costs than three years ago but have fewer customers coming in the door.

“With consumer confidence badly shaken by rising inflation and the prospect of mountainous energy bills in the autumn, both the UK and Scottish governments need to urgently recognise the scale of the challenge facing the industry. That should then lead into action in the UK and Scottish Budgets later this year to protect household incomes, especially for the least affluent, while helping retailers to weather the economic storm.”

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant EMEA for Sensormatic Solutions, said that July had delivered a “smorgasbord of summer disruption” for retailers as the ongoing rail strikes derailed footfall gains and the UK’s record-breaking heatwave saw shoppers shun the shops for several days as the temperatures soared.

He said: “Add to this the ongoing cautiousness we’re seeing among the cost-of-living consumer, it made for a bumpy month for shopper traffic performance.

“Amid the tailwinds of economic uncertainty comes possible policy changes as the Tory leadership contest plays out. Retailers will be listening closely to how the next Tory leader plans to help the high street while hoping shoppers vote with their feet in August.”