Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Dip in Scottish Retail Sales Felt Across the Board

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium:

Scottish retail sales tumbled in April compared to the same trading period the year before. Much of this can be attributed to Easter falling unusually early this year, into March, which brought forward shopper purchases and meant shopper footfall and spending in April was constrained.
The decline was felt across the board with food retailing, DIY, gardening, furniture, and household appliances all suffering. Fashion fared poorly too despite the availability of new seasonal ranges and widespread discounting. The only bright spot was computing, which did well after a couple of torrid years.
Notwithstanding the Easter distortion, the figures do underline the sense that any recovery in consumer demand and retail sales is at best fitful and fragile. That said, there are some grounds for cautious optimism. Recent reductions in employee national insurance contributions and the freeze in council tax should hopefully support demand over the months ahead, especially with shop price inflation at its lowest level for two and a half years and average wages growing in real terms. Hopefully, this summer’s major sporting events including the European football championships and Olympics will also provide a welcome fillip to retail, more so if the Scottish football team and Team GB have something to celebrate.

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

The positive sales growth seen in March was short lived as the impact of an early Easter and continued wet and chilly weather saw April retail sales fall by 4.8% year on year in Scotland, with both food and non-food sales recording a drop when compared to the previous year.
On paper consumers should arguably be feeling more able to go out spending again as economic conditions improve, but on the back of two years of budgeting and cost cutting, cautious consumers are releasing the purse-strings much more slowly than they tightened them, choosing to save or pay down debt. The positive sales figures seen in March due to an early Easter demonstrate the importance that triggers such as warmer weather, events and occasions can have in helping to deliver the necessary impact required to get consumers spending again.
Retailers will be hoping that there might still be an early summer interest rate cut, a strong performance from Scotland in the Euros, and an uptick in temperatures. Together this might be the trigger to boost consumers’ willingness to spend in the weeks ahead.


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