Are Scotland's shops set for an increase in tills ringing?

Amid a drop in footfall in September, there are fears over how shops in Scotland will fare in coming months, with one retail boss calling for support to get people back through the door into what she stresses is a safe environment.
Scottish stores lost £2.2bn of retail sales over the first six months of the pandemic, the SRC noted. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.Scottish stores lost £2.2bn of retail sales over the first six months of the pandemic, the SRC noted. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.
Scottish stores lost £2.2bn of retail sales over the first six months of the pandemic, the SRC noted. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

Such stores are still trying to “claw their way back” to pre-crisis levels, with the pace of recovery drawn out, Scottish Retail Consortium boss David Lonsdale has warned.

The warning comes on the back of new data for the sector – and in the wake of tighter new hospitality restrictions north of the Border.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

British Retail Consortium-Shoppertrak figures reveal that footfall across the UK fell by nearly a third year on year in September, with only a 4.7 percentage point improvement from August.

For high streets specifically, many of which have been hit by an increase in home working, it fell by 37 per cent, retail parks 7 per cent, and 36.1 per cent for shopping centres, with many of the latter facing the closure of a cinema anchor tenant.

Read More
Analysis: What does Cineworld closure mean for Scotland's beleagured retail park...

In Scotland, footfall in shopping centres and malls was down by just over a third, a slightly better performance than the 43 per cent drop seen in August, and the fifth-highest drop of all UK regions. Shopper footfall in Glasgow was down 29 per cent, again a slight improvement on the 35 per cent fall recorded the previous month.

Lonsdale said: “Scottish stores lost £2.2 billion of retail sales over the first six months of the pandemic, and have yet to claw their way back to pre-crisis levels. Shopper footfall is gradually returning but the improvement is painfully slow.

“The impact on city-centre footfall in particular of the latest government restrictions on hospitality, coupled with warnings about using public transport, have yet to be seen but are unlikely to help over the next few weeks. This is a real worry for consumer-facing firms in the run up to the critical Christmas trading period.”


Karen Forret, owner and MD of clothing retailer Wilkies, which has 15 stores across Scotland, told The Scotsman there must be encouragement by the government for consumers to "come out and shop safely”. This is to prevent “irreparable”, long-term harm to high streets, communities and the retail workforce, with footfall currently lagging far behind, especially in bigger town centres and cities.

“Non-essential” retailers have followed all rules to reopen and keep staff and customers safe, she stressed, adding: “Do ministers realise how quickly an empty unit dilapidates (sic) and how hard it becomes to find a tenant willing to invest in them to reopen them?

"We are open for business, we welcome customers safely into our stores. We need to live with this virus and not allow scaremongering to destroy the retail industry and the investment we put back into the economy and our communities each year.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, there is some cause for optimism. Yesterday, sportswear retailer Decathlon said it was targeting several Scottish locations after unveiling a £1 million Aberdeen store, and seeing its existing superstores in Edinburgh and Glasgow achieve year-on-year growth.

Additionally, more than half of Scots always support shops on their high street, according to a recent study – although it also said the sector needs backing to survive the consequences of Covid-19.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. Visit now to sign up. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.