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15 August 2016, 06:00
Fewer people visited Scottish shops in July but more premises were occupied than the previous month, retailers have reported.
Footfall in Scotland fell for the second month in a row - down 1.9% in July following a 3.3% fall in June, the Scottish Retail Consortium said.
The Scottish vacancy rate improved to 7.5% In July, down from from 8.4% in April
David Lonsdale, director, Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "These results are something of a mixed bag for Scotland's retail industry, with a welcome reduction in the shop premises vacancy rate unfortunately coupled with shopper footfall flagging once again.
"Indeed shopper footfall in stores dipped for a second successive month and at a faster rate than the average over the past three months, pointing to a continuing fragility in demand and the ongoing popularity of online retailing.
"The second quarterly improvement in a row in the vacancy rate is encouraging, though it remains to be seen whether this reflects units being taken up on a temporary or more sustained basis.
"Retailers' prospects are ultimately determined by the state of the economy, the balance between their income and costs and their own ability to adapt and seize on the opportunities that arise.
"These are testing times for the industry which is Scotland's largest private sector employer, and the Holyrood government and MSPs can assist by taking tangible action in the upcoming Scottish Budget to bolster consumer and business sentiment.
"Retailers will be looking for a clear road map for future tax and regulatory changes, a tight lid on personal and business tax rates and charges, and for the scrapping of the Scotland-only rates surcharge on medium and larger sized firms.''
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at retail analysts Springboard, said: "Unlike the UK, where vacancies increased by 0.5 percentage points to 10.1%, the vacancy rate in Scotland dropped by 0.9 percentage points from an already strong level of 8.4% to 7.5%.
"Not only is this the second lowest level of any area in the UK, but it has noticeably improved from a rate of 10.6% in July 2015. The April to June quarter can prove irregular, as typically post-Christmas pop ups and temporary stores disappear from the high street.
"Across the UK it seems that the EU Referendum and political and economic uncertainty of the last quarter will have deterred some retailers from taking on leases but Scotland appears to have been insulated from this. The next quarter's figures will be the ones to watch to get a clear picture on any continued increase in vacancy rates, which would be concerning for town centres across the UK.''