Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Silence Befalls High Streets as Most Shops Shutter

David Lonsdale, Director , Scottish Retail Consortium:

“Retail sales in Scotland collapsed in April, the first full month under lockdown, plummeting to their lowest level in over two decades as a result of the chaos wrought by Coronavirus. Unsurprisingly discretionary spending bore the brunt of it, recording its worst ever performance as most shops were shuttered and shoppers switched their focus to essentials. The spike in online purchases failed to staunch much of the sharp drop. The decline affected all parts of retail, with even grocery waning as households whittled down stockpiled food and with Easter failing to muster much cheer.

“The few bright spots included sales of items which allowed people to work or school from home, especially computers and accessories. DIY, toys and games, and personal hygiene items – like anti-bacterial gel – performed well. Meanwhile the beauty, clothing, footwear, and furniture categories had a torrid time.

“Retailers are working hard to ready themselves to re-open safely, and to play their part in getting Scotland’s economy moving again, once they are permitted to do so by government. What is needed now is visibility on Scotland’s route out of lockdown and a sense of the likely sequencing and timeframes of any phased re-opening of shops. Regardless, the collapse in retail sales will be felt well beyond any easing of the restrictions on which shops can re-open over the coming weeks.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:

“As Scotland now approaches two months of full lockdown, it’s no surprise that the country’s retailers are facing their biggest sales declines since records began. With total sales decreased by more than 40% compared with April last year, it’s impossible to downplay the scale of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on one of the country’s most important sectors. With food-sales also down slightly and online retail failing to make up the lost ground, it’s clear that the industry has a monumental challenge ahead.

“With around 13% of Scotland’s private workforce, retail remains one of Scotland’s largest employers. It’s also a key part of the fabric of communities across the country. The long-term effect of such a significant downturn will be felt in every High Street. The focus will clearly now be on the timetable for the easing of restrictions and what that means for retailers that fall within the non-essential category. Now, more than ever, the industry needs to look to the future and plan for the new reality. Shifting consumer habits combined with the global pandemic have created a perfect storm for the sector, but this is a resilient industry, with a focus on costs, greater innovation and collaboration, retailers will survive and regain some of the lost ground in the long term.” 


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