David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium:
“Retail sales in Scotland nudged up a touch last month, once falling prices at shop tills were factored in. Unsurprisingly, there was a marked deceleration from the octane-fuelled performance witnessed during April; which was driven by Easter sales. Whether this owes more to shoppers catching their breath, or reflects a more prolonged period of cooler retail sales amid growing uncertainty over the outlook for household disposable incomes, remains to be seen.
“Grocery sales did well again, with the category recording its fastest growth in almost four years. However, that growth is partly being driven by rising food price inflation, so grocers will see only modest benefit. Non-food retail sales remained in the doldrums. There was a greater focus across most non-food categories on value and affordability, with a corresponding dip in sales of larger or bespoke household items. Sales of mobile phones did well as did summer-related women’s footwear and sandals.
“For Scotland’s retailers, all eyes over the coming months will be on the direction of consumer spending, with family finances set to be buffeted further by overall inflation outstripping the growth in wages, and as recent domestic cost increases such as council tax take hold.”
Craig Cavin, Head of Retail in Scotland, KPMG:
“Food sales continued to be the main driver of sales in May, as the gap in performance between food and non-food persisted. For the fourth consecutive month total food sales were in the black whilst non-food figures languished in the red. May’s figures pulled food sales up to a three-month average of 4.1%, the highest since August 2013.
“Continued inflationary pressures and stagnant wages point towards consumers channelling their spending towards food and drink essentials, and sticking to the basics for the likes of clothing and health and beauty items.
“Non-food sales slumped once again and brought the 12-month average equal to the lows noted in March – the lowest figure recorded since December 2012. Non-food retailers, particularly fashion outlets, will be glued to the weather forecast as we get into the warmer months and shoppers turn their attention to shorts and sandals. Last year’s Euro Championships boosted summer TV sales, but the lack of a big-ticket football event means non-food retailers will look to annual attractions like Wimbledon to bolster sales.”