A LATER Easter boosted footfall in Scottish shops in April, a report has found.

The holiday weekend of Good Friday and Easter Monday helped to increase the number of visitors by 3.2 per cent, the fastest monthly growth in almost three years, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

Footfall grew on the high street despite a continued rise in the number of town centre shops lying empty. Experts believe a weakening pound encouraged more people to stay in the UK over the Easter holiday period, and also attracted more visitors.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at retail body Springboard, said: “As Easter fell in April this year as opposed to March last year, footfall in Scotland was boosted by 3.2 per cent.

“This was demonstrated by a 4.9 per cent rise in the first half of the month, which culminated in Good Friday and Easter Saturday, compared with a drop of two per cent in the last two weeks.

“Footfall generally was fuelled by the weakened pound, driving both an increase in overseas tourists and in Easter ‘staycations’ amongst domestic visitors demonstrated by a rise of 5.1 per cent in coastal towns, and of 7.9 per cent in historic towns.

“The underlying structural shift towards leisure-focused trips meant that whilst high street footfall rose by 1.9 per cent during retail trading hours, trips to high streets post 5pm increased by more than three per cent.

SRC head of policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell described the April figures for footfall and shop vacancy rates as a “mixed picture” and warned against more changes to business rates.

He added: “Shop vacancy rate is now standing at 9.2 per cent, up from nine per cent in January, and the highest figure in almost two years. In itself that movement is not hugely significant, but with other economic indicators in Scotland also raising concerns, policymakers should pay close attention to the measures they take which affect retail premises.There was much better news for retailers with strong footfall in April, these are the best shopper footfall figures in almost three years, and the highest three-month average we’ve seen in Scotland since September 2014.”