Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Food Accelerates as Non-Food Steps Back

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium:

“The recent gradual improvement in retail sales went into reverse in October, slipping to the weakest performance since the ending of the lockdown in June, as greater Covid restrictions and economic uncertainty exerted a vice-like grip. Retail sales in Scotland have still to emerge from the pandemic-induced funk, after eight months, deeply concerning at what is for many stores the start of the all-important festive period.

“Convenience store and other grocery sales fared well, temporarily buoyed as restrictions on eating out became more prevalent. With many office workers advised to stay home, sales of electronics, household goods and home office products remained high. There were even some signs of early festive shopping, particularly for Christmas decorations and gifting. However store-based sales in other non-food categories wilted further, down by a fifth on the same period last year. Beauty and fashion categories fared especially poorly, as greater restrictions on social occasions took effect and drained away demand for more formal wear. Purchases to do with Halloween celebrations failed to muster much cheer.

“We are now in the all-important festive trading period, when some retailers traditionally make the majority of their annual revenues or at least enough to tide them over the lean winter period. Businesses which were perfectly healthy at the start of the year are now struggling with circumstances beyond their control, and the fight for survival couldn’t be more intense for some. Further forced store closures due to any local lockdowns during the coming weeks could be the final straw for some retailers.”

Paul Martin, Partner, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:

“October’s data perfectly reflects the crisis facing Scotland’s High Streets. Accelerated growth in food sales provides some evidence that a tightening of restrictions and growing fears of a return to lockdown are encouraging stockpiling, but it isn’t enough to halt an overall decline. With non-food sales down by more than 19 percent and total year-on-year sales down almost seven percent, retailers are facing a daily fight for survival.

“Shifting consumer behaviour, driven by Brexit and COVID-19 uncertainty is having an unprecedented impact on Scotland’s retail industry. We’re just a week away from Black Friday and in the middle of the so-called ‘Golden Quarter’, when the sector typically witnesses its biggest gains. This winter, to simply survive, retailers will have to double down on innovative strategies, pivot towards profitable online revenue growth and work even harder to tempt some shoppers back to physical retail spaces.”


Only members and associate members can access this exclusive insight.