Retail Change in Scotland at Local Authority Level 2008-2014

The ‘last post’ (given the topic that may not be my most apt phrasing) focused on the Scottish level publication of the Scottish Annual Business Statistics 2014.  I am following up here with a look at the data at the Local Authority level.

To recap, this data source provides data from 2008-2014 on a range of retail measures at the SIC07 level.  I am focusing here on the data for shops, employment (headcount including owner-operators, self-employed etc.) and turnover at the LA level.  There are other data on GVA, labour costs and so on, but I do wonder, given the fluctuations that I observe in the data, about their value at this level.  I am also, as noted in the previous post, a little unsure of how internet sales are included or not and very much doubt they are really accurate at the Local Authority level.

The national picture is one of a decline in shops (by 6.8%), employment headcount (by 3.8%) but an increase in turnover (by 16.6%).  But what does this look like at the LA level?



The table above provides the data and some change calculations.  We can look at three elements in turn:

  1. Shops: Glasgow and Edinburgh have the most shops with Orkney and Shetland the fewest – no surprise there! But the different patterns of change are more varied.  South Ayrshire, Midlothian and East Lothian saw shop numbers grow, with the biggest declines being in West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde.  Other steep declines were in Falkirk, Perth & Kinross and the Scottish Borders.
  2. Employment: The patterns for employment and employment change mirror in the main those for shop numbers, though there is no complete matching. Orkney and Shetland seem to be growing retail headcount from a very small base, but there are large declines in Falkirk, Inverclyde and West Dunbartonshire.
  3.  Turnover: These figures are more variable than might be expected perhaps. The scale is as expected in the main, but with a national 16.6% increase it is perhaps a surprise to see declines in East Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Perth & Kinross and Stirling.  The particular reasons behind these vary and are due one suspects to consumer spending power and connectivity.  The biggest increases are seen in Na h-Eileanan Siar, Shetland, West Lothian, Scottish Borders, Angus and Orkney, which are an interesting collection of locations.

The second table, below, looks at employees and turnover per unit and how this has changed.



It is unclear how meaningful these data and calculations are at this level, but overall they seem to suggest that the headcount per store is rising in most places, as is the turnover per store. The exceptions in the latter case are the Ayrshires.

The discussion in the last post raised a few questions about these data, their meaning and the possible future trajectories.  Given the uncertainties perhaps all we can say is that the retail sector is undergoing a transformation in many dimensions.  Here, it is clear that at the LA level there are different trajectories.  These figures of course hide the patterns within local authorities and say nothing about the profitability of these businesses nor about the interventions that LAs can, and might have to make.

At the Scottish level the figures rather surprised me in that they do not fully show the change I feel is underway.  Given the recession and the change in shopping patterns I had expected a bleaker picture.  At the Local Authority level, there is more variability, but it is more difficult to discern patterns.  There seems perhaps to be some degree of enhanced self-reliance and expansion in island and some rural communities/local authorities (though not all) and there is a particular pattern of decline in the Ayrshires.  I would be interested in other thoughts/views on any patterns that can be discerned.

There is of course an issue with using Local Authority data as it masks as much as it reveals, with pattern across settlements within any local authority likely to be divergent.  It is a shame data such as these are not routinely produced at the place/town level (though the upcoming v2 of USP will say more on business change at town level).  I suspect we are in for a lot of change across the country in coming years, as retailing and shopping continues to transform, and that this will exhibit variability across the LAs. As the behaviours change so the structures underlying the sector are altering.



About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
This entry was posted in Closure, Consumer Change, Data, Employment, Local Authorities, Online Retailing, Places, Retail Change, Scottish Retailing, Shop Numbers, Statistics, Towns, Understanding Scottish Places and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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