Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy and External Affairs, Scottish Retail Consortium:
“January is always a challenging month for retailers after the vital Christmas period, and 2018 was no different. Overall there was a real-terms rise in sales of 0.3 per cent, but below the three and twelve month averages.
“As with previous months, the rise in food sales is the driving force behind this growth, with the 4.2 per cent rise bringing the twelve-month average to the highest point in over six years. That rise is still being lifted by food price inflation, but traditional Scottish products did well, including strong haggis sales as customers toasted the Bard of Ayrshire. Non-food sales continued to struggle, with several retailers offering significant promotional activity to encourage sales. Nonetheless, most categories struggled across the month, albeit there was a rise in spending on cold and cough medicines which uniquely does correlate with some very cold weather.
“All the evidence is that consumers continue to be careful with their spending at a time of uncertainty. With income and council tax rises coming in later this Spring, along with inflation and potential interest rate rises, retailers will have to continue to work hard to encourage consumer spending in the months ahead.”
Craig Cavin, Head of Retail in Scotland, KPMG:
“Retailers will be glad to see the back of January. Although it wasn’t as bleak as some predicted, overall sales still declined by 0.1 per cent.
“Some retailers tempted customers into store using discounting and the introduction of new season lines, yet non-food sales declined 3.6 per cent compared to last year. Slightly worse than the three and twelve-month average declines of 3.3 per cent, January’s performance reflects the growing financial pressures faced by customers – particularly in the aftermath of Christmas.
“Sales will have been impacted by both the tightening of purse strings post-Christmas, as well as a flurry of snowstorms dissuading shoppers from visiting the high street.
“The great divide between grocery and non-food sales performance also continued throughout January. Food sales saw the highest twelve-month average growth since July 2011, though this was once again largely driven by inflation. Moreover, the rising cost of living saw consumers opting for heavily discounted goods, particularly in non-food sectors, putting further pressure on retailers’ profit margins.
“January is always a challenging month for retailers due to the festive squeeze, but this month’s figures reflect wider trends. Retailers must continue to adapt to changing consumer habits.”