It has been described as a “make or break” festive season for traders in Scotland.
Footfall in shops across Scotland was at its lowest for four months in November.
That is a fifth down on the same period two years ago.
Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said those figures were “profoundly worrying”.
Mr Lonsdale said this will be a “make or break festive trading period” for some firms.
We spoke to businesses across Tayside and Fife to get their take on this year’s festive trading.
A noticeable decline in footfall
Keith Ingram, who runs Assai Records in Union Street, Dundee, said there had been a noticeable decline in footfall to his store.
“We’re not far off 2019 turnover although footfall is definitely noticeably down,” he said.
“The people who are coming in are spending money but the way people shop has definitely changed.”
One problem facing Assai Records has been vinyl shortages.
Vinyl sales in the UK have increased by more than 30% in the past year.
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand and Mr Ingram said shortages are a “massive” problem.
“There is a lot of consistent sellers who we would expect to sell over the Christmas period that are just not available.
“It just means that some things might not always be on the shelves.”
But seeing people return to the store has been a boost.
“It is really important for us to get people into the shop. It is about feeling part of the community as well.”
Angus firm encouraged by local support
In Arbroath, delicatessen Smithies stocks a range of Christmas gifts, from hampers to gin and whisky.
She was encouraged to see people still supporting local businesses.
It comes as new research shows 78% of Christmas shoppers have bought with small businesses.
Manager Beth Smith said: “If it’s in a supermarket, we don’t stock it. When people come in, they are looking for unique stuff anyway.”
Ms Smith said it has been difficult to compare this year to last.
“We have had return customers who discovered us last year. They are coming back because the gifts are so great.
“People are looking to support local businesses, which is great.”
‘Lovely’ to welcome children back
In Perth, it is a similar story at toy shop Fun Junction, with boss Karen Christie delighted to welcome children back.
“It is lovely to know we have got loyal customers. It’s lovely to have children back in the shop.
“When we first opened up, they hadn’t seen anyone for more than a year. It gives everyone a lift, especially at this time of year.”
She said the pandemic had been “very difficult”.
“We were doing a bit online, or people phoning in, but most of the staff were furloughed,” she added.
Ms Christie added: “We have been busy.
“I think people are buying bigger items online and then coming to the local shop for other items.”
Fife business struggling to meet targets
In Kirkcaldy, jewellery and gift shop Eloise is struggling to hit the same targets as it has in previous years.
Louise Canny, who runs the High Street store, said: “Christmas is not what it used to be.
“They will never be like they were in the past for the high street.
“That is because of retail parks and online shopping.
“People are not coming in the same numbers as they used to.
“People are used to shopping online, plus there is still a fear of Covid and crowds.
She is optimistic that Kirkcaldy High Street will bounce back.
“This is going to be a very different town centre in two years’ time and I can’t wait.
“We’re still in a lull but it is really exciting.”