Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

A Shocking Month For Scotland’s High Streets

Ewan MacDonald Russell, Head of Policy & External Affairs, Scottish Retail Consortium:

“These are truly dismal figures which expose just how hard retail has been hammered by coronavirus. The worst overall retail sales performance ever. The worst non-food sales ever. The worst fashion and footwear sales ever.  March was nothing less than a shocker on Scotland’s High Streets.

“Beneath the headline figures is a tale of extreme polarisation. The first three weeks of the trading period saw unprecedented levels of grocery shopping, with household staples being stockpiled, before sales fell back into negative territory in the last two weeks. Across the month office supplies, toys and games, health and hygiene products, and fridges and freezers all saw stellar growth as customers adapted homes for lockdown.

“Conversely the bad news was truly rotten.  Fashion and footwear sales collapsed. Large item sales crumbled as consumer confidence fell sharply. Across the board consumers appear to be reducing spending as they adapt to these new circumstances and economic concerns.

“Retail has gone through the most difficult month in a generation. Many businesses are closed, whilst those who remain trading are doing so in incredibly hard circumstances. Enormous investment has been made at pace to protect colleagues and customers, to maintain supply chains, and to expand online capacity to help those who need it. In this period retail workers have worked incredibly hard to continue to provide the vital goods families require.

“Throughout the last month the Scottish and UK Governments have made unprecedented fiscal interventions to support the economy. Those vital and welcome schemes, including rates relief, worker support, and grants, are keeping many retailers afloat. Hopefully that will ensure our industry can play its part in getting the economy back on its feet when the time is right.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:

“Following an already incredibly challenging twelve months for Scotland’s retail sector, it’s impossible to underestimate the impact the Coronavirus pandemic is now having on the industry, with total sales down 13 percent. The sharp divide between food – up 12.1 percent - and non-food sales – down 33.6 percent - also reinforces the scale of the problem ahead for many of the country’s best known brands. Even taking into account the estimated boost to online sales, non-food decreased by 27.9 percent overall, reflecting the most significant drops we’ve ever reported since our Retail Sales Monitor was launched in 1995.

“Scotland’s High Streets are largely closed and there’s no short-term end in sight with lockdown likely to continue throughout May. With thousands of workers furloughed or facing redundancy and cash flow and liquidity becoming an immediate issue, retailers now need to explore what urgent measures they can take today to ensure they secure their place in a potentially very different future retail sector. However, the industry is resilient. It’s been through many challenges in the past and it’s now playing a key role in helping to keep the country supplied and fed through a crisis. With the right measures and innovative thinking, Scotland’s retail sector will continue to play a crucial role in the success of the national economy.”


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