Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy and External Affairs, Scottish Retail Consortium:
“On the surface there is some good news in August’s figures. Real terms sales rose by 1.3 percent, with customers taking advantage of early Autumn ranges. Food continued to perform well with a year-on-year increase of 4.2 percent, albeit that continues to be partially driven by food price inflation of 1.3 percent. Nonetheless, it’s positive to see that inflation figure has stabilised for the time being, hopefully helping shoppers facing straightened times.
“The Non-food sales decline of 1.5 percent was an improvement over the twelve-month average of -2.7 percent, with household textiles and back-to-school ranges performing well. However, it’s important to note both food and non-food are being compared to a very poor August in 2016. Therefore, the apparent spike in performance may well be a statistical quirk rather than evidence of sustained sales improvement.
“Nonetheless retailers will welcome these figures after a pretty disappointing summer. However, the underlying challenges facing the industry, not least the continued pressure on household incomes and fragile consumer confidence, mean Government should be very careful about any policies which could lead to increases to the cost of living.”
Craig Cavin, Head of Retail in Scotland, KPMG:
“Scottish retail’s return to growth continued in August, as food sales’ sustained period in the black was extended. Grocery sales lead the charge once again, with a 4.1 per cent year on year increase bringing the 12-month average to its highest level for more than three years.
“With August bringing children’s return to school, the Edinburgh Festival and the release of autumn clothing ranges, non-food’s recent poor performance received a late summer boost, with online sales nudging the category into growth.
“However, despite home furnishings, TVs and fridges all selling well as consumers prepare their houses for the longer autumnal evenings, other non-food remained in decline.
“Looking ahead, shop owners will have one eye on the Scottish Government’s taxation plans, announced in the coming weeks, as they look for greater support for the industry.”