Hope for Scotland's high streets with drop in number of empty shops
Scotland's struggling high streets have received a glimmer of hope after a fall was recorded last month in the number of empty shops.

The Scottish Retail Consortium said the retail outlet vacancy rate in Scotland in October was 8.7per cent, down from the 10.6per cent rate in the previous quarter.

Out-of-town retail parks are also seeing an increase in customers, with footfall up 2.9per cent year on year, across the UK.

The figures also show that Scottish retailers are becoming "increasingly adept at harnessing the internet" as footfall continues to fall on the high street and shopping centres.

"Customers are doing more research online now than ever, which has the adverse effect of reducing footfall in store as they no longer need to visit the retailer,” said Gordon Mearns, managing director of Sterling Furniture, set up more than 35 years ago and now with nine stores across the country and a thriving online business.

“You need to ensure your website is fit for purpose for customers or you will not even get on their shopping list."

Footfall in Scotland was down 0.6per cent in October compared with a year ago but represented a small improvement on September's figures.

Across the UK, footfall was 0.2per cent lower last month than a year ago, unchanged from the decline in September, according to the monthly Scottish Retail Consortium Springboard Footfall Monitor.

"The improved shop vacancy rate in our town centres provides a welcome glimmer of light, more so as it comes after three successive quarters of deterioration,” said David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium.

"We look forward to seeing whether this develops into a sustained improvement in shop vacancy rates or whether it simply reflects retail units being taken up on a temporary basis in the run-up to the crucial Christmas trading period.

"With the clock firmly ticking down towards the Chancellor's Autumn Statement and Finance Secretary's Scottish Budget in a few weeks' time, retailers will be looking for convincing action to bolster consumer confidence and also stem the relentless rise in government-inspired cost pressures."

Mr Lonsdale added: "Scotland's retailers are increasingly adept at harnessing the internet and multi-channel innovations to get through to consumers who might not have time to travel to the shops.”

Meanwhile the after-effects of the expected £1bn online shopping spree on November 27, dubbed Black Friday, could result in clogged roads as extra vans are called on to deliver goods.

SOURCE: Herald Scotland

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