Average weekly footfall – based on the number of people frequenting nine town centre shopping areas in the Borders – has fallen by 32% since 2007, a new report has revealed.
But the two Berwickshire towns surveyed – Duns and Eyemouth – are performing better than most other urban settlements in the region.
The collapse in footfall is considered a symptom of a range of factors, not least the predominance of out of town supermarkets and the emergence of online retailing.
According to a Scottish Borders Council survey published this week, Duns saw its average weekly footfall go up from 1,600 in 2013 to 1,720 last year although that is still 18% down on the 2007 figure of 2.160.
Last year the town had a lower than average retail unit vacancy rate of 8% - compared to Galashiels where the rate is 19%.
“Duns is a successful market town and its performance over recent years is better than the average across the Borders,” states the report.
Monitoring of footfall in Eyemouth did not begin until 2012 when a weekly average of 2,220 was recorded. This fell by 15% to 1,880 in 2013 – when weather was very poor over two survey dates - but bounced back last year to top 2,150.
“This gives Eyemouth the highest levels of footfall east of Kelso,” says the report, revealingthat the busiest part of the town centre was that between the Co-op and the Market Square.
Elsewhere, Galashiels, despite suffering an 18% footfall cut since 2007, remains the busiest town, followed by Peebles, with Kelso replacing Hawick in third place.
The report cautions that the region-wide weekly footfall total of 31,590 (not including Eyemouth), although ostensibly down by 11% in a single year, may have been skewed by what it describes as “potential rogue results” in Melrose and Hawick.
Torrential rain during the survey periods in Melrose last year is cited as the only possible explanation for the weekly footfall being recorded at just 990, compared to 2013’s 3,390.
Hawick experienced the second harshest annual decline in average weekly footfall ever recorded [down 40% from 6,200 in 2013 to 3,750].
“The succession of large falls in footfall over the last six years was already a concern and the council has set out changes to Hawick’s town centre planning policies to encourage footfall generating uses.”