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17 August 2015, 06:43
Footfall in Scottish shops dropped last month while shop vacancies increased, according to new figures.
In July footfall numbers in Scotland were 2.4% lower than a year ago, unchanged from June's rate, the SRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor for the month showed.
This was below the UK wide figure of 1.1% lower than a year ago.
Meanwhile the shop vacancy rate in Scotland was 10.6%, a slight rise from 10.4% in the previous quarter.
This was above the UK rate of 9.8% in July 2015.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has called for action to tackle the issue.
David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said: "This is a rather cheerless set of figures, heralding a third successive spike in the shop vacancy rate in our town centres coupled with a further drop in shopper footfall.
"Almost one out of every nine retail premises in Scotland now sits empty. Encouraging shoppers back is crucial to reducing the number of vacant premises, however shopper footfall shrivelled once again last month albeit against a strong comparable in the same period last year. July was the third successive month in which shopper footfall contracted.
"A more concerted effort is required to drive up footfall and reduce the number of empty retail premises in our town centres.''
He said that retailers have a role to play but said that government at all levels should consider what further steps could be taken.
He said: "For example local councils should place more emphasis on accessible and affordable parking and a building standards system that better facilitates retail refurbishment and expansion.
"At a time when retailers' margins are thin or non-existent government needs to get a firmer grip on tax and regulatory costs which have mushroomed, starting by making it less costly for firms to invest in commercial premises.''
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said vacancy rates are likely to continue to worsen unless action is taken.
She said: "The more severe drop in footfall in Scotland's high streets and shopping centres compared with the UK is likely to be one of the reasons for the worsening of the vacancy rate to 10.6% from 10.4%.
"Many retailers are rationalising their networks as high street leases come to an end, and as retail parks are able to easily capitalise on the demands of shoppers in the omni-channel trading environment they inevitably act as a magnet for retailers who are able to trade successfully out of town.
"The growth in activity in retail parks in Scotland - which started five months earlier than across the UK in August 2013 and which is escalating - is likely to lead to a further deterioration in the vacancy rate over the coming months unless some key initiatives are implemented to boost town centre trade.''