Scottish retailers have enjoyed a better start to 2016 in terms of footfall numbers – the total number of shoppers – than a year ago, industry figures show.
Footfall during January was up by 1.5%, an improvement on the 0.2% year-on-year increase seen in December.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said it was also the best monthly performance since last March and ahead of the UK average.
But the number of shops becoming vacant north of the border rose last month, with 9.1% of units empty. This was compared with a fourth quarter 2015 vacancy rate of 8.7%, which was also the UK average for January.
SRC director David Lonsdale said: “This second successive month of growth in shopper footfall is encouraging, and may point to a more positive start to the year for retailers after what was a decidedly downbeat 2015 as a whole for the industry in Scotland.
“The deterioration in the shop vacancy rate is less welcome. One in every 11 shops in our town centres is empty, higher than the comparable figure for the UK.
“There is no more pressing issue for the industry than the prohibitive cost of business rates, which has moved in the eyes of many retailers from an irritation to mission critical in recent years.”
The latest SRC/Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor says said the drop in vacancies across the UK was driven by continued occupancy by pop-up shops and temporary lets which increased in the run up to Christmas.
UK footfall in January was up by 1.2%, significantly above the 2.2% decline seen in December and the best performance since January 2014 excluding Easter distortions.
High Streets reported their first rise in footfall since July 2013, while retail park locations enjoyed a 5.2% year-on-year increase.