Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Sprightlier Scottish retail sales buoyed by early Easter

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Deputy Head, Scottish Retail Consortium:

“Clearly one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but these positive figures for March are a balm for hard-pressed retailers in Scotland after many months of difficult trading. The data shows a pick-up in demand across food and non-food categories with the total value of retail sales, once adjusted for shop price inflation, growing for the first time since last June. This was buoyed in great part by the early Easter and associated improvement in footfall.
“Sales of home accessories, home textiles and health and beauty performed well, as did grocery and toys as Scots readied for Easter and the school break. In contrast DIY, garden furniture, and larger household appliances fared less well.
“Enthusiasm over March’s sprightlier results is understandable after a sustained and difficult period for Scottish retail sales. However, this needs to be tempered given continuing pressures on retailers’ outgoings and the fact that some Easter related purchases will have been pulled forward into March. It’s too early to say Scottish retail sales have turned the corner. However, the continued real terms growth in wages, the easing of shop price inflation, and the freeze to council tax and reductions in employee national insurance contributions should all help support future demand.”

Linda Ellett, UK Head of Consumer, Retail and Leisure , KPMG:

"After a tough start to the year, an early Easter showed the green shoots of spring with total sales in Scotland increasing by 2.8% in March. Whilst this seems disappointing compared to the increase of 8.8% last March, this was above the 3-month average increase of 2.1% and when adjusted for inflation is a positive 1.5% year-on-year growth.
“High street sales growth was driven by food and drink, health and beauty and keen gardeners who headed outside to enjoy the first days of spring. There were also some signs of green shoots with more categories starting to see positive sales growth in March for the first time in months.
“As April signals big increases in the sector’s cost base – through the rise in minimum wage rates and business rate hikes for the larger high street brands – retailers will be hoping that the bounce back of March sales is more than just an Easter blip. Economic indicators are heading in the right direction with inflationary pressures easing and interest rates having potentially peaked, however consumer confidence remains fragile and households continue to keep a close eye on where their tight budgets are being spent. It remains a challenging environment, but as we head into the warmer months retailers will be hoping that stronger consumer confidence will turn into stronger retail sales, especially in more discretionary categories such as clothing, following an incredibly difficult few years."


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