Ewan MacDonald-Russel, Head of Policy and External Affairs, Scottish Retail Consortium:
“Scottish retail sales were stuck in a holding pattern in August as the continued squeeze on consumer spending and political uncertainty continued. Retail sales struggled to take off, up a smidgen in real terms by 0.2 per cent, following the path of recent months. That consistent pattern, of rising food sales being offset by declining non-food sales became more pronounced last month, showing customers remain unwilling to commit to expensive purchases at this time.
“Food sales continue to provide a source of growth, albeit with the caveat that food price inflation is driving a fair proportion of the increase. There were some bright moments in the month where the rare bursts of sunshine encouraged sales of outdoor food and drinks, but that was offset by weak non-food sales. Even where there was positive growth, in clothing and white goods, that tended to be the result of shoppers replacing essentials, such as back to school clothing, rather than splashing out on new products.
“Retailers will therefore be looking forward cautiously to the autumn. Our expectation is customer spending will continue to be focused on essentials, and therefore we’d hope Government would ensure there were no further immediate costs which would stretch hard-pressed retailers even further.”
Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:
“The latest figures will not provide much welcome news and the long-term outlook for Scotland’s high streets continues to remain challenging. Retailers witnessed a decline in total sales value of 0.2 per cent, which is at least an improvement on the three-month average, offering a level of optimism.
“Non-food remains challenging and the overall performance was mitigated by strong food sales and inflationary price rises, suggesting that it’s not a sudden change in consumer behaviour, which is behind some of the improvements experienced. For retailers, that should act as a clear sign that now, more than ever, is the time to develop a clear strategy focused on managing immediate cost efficiencies and exploring growth opportunities through new business models or partnerships that may have not been obvious in the past.”