Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Lockdowns Scupper Non-Food Hopes

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy & External Affairs, Scottish Retail Consortium:

“Scottish retail sales plummeted in November as retailers were hammered by the Level 4 lockdowns. Overall sales fell by 8.4 percent in real terms; but it was non-food stores which truly suffered with sales falling by more than a fifth. Clothing, footwear, and beauty all continued to struggle, which is an enormous concern during the traditional golden shopping period of the year for non-food stores.

“It wasn’t all bad news. Food sales accelerated for the third consecutive month, benefitting from the continuing lack of competition from closed hospitality businesses and the launch of festive ranges. It’s also clear shoppers have looked to start Christmas shopping early where possible. Christmas decorations saw record sales as customers look to offset bleak lockdowns with light and colour along with chocolate and cosmetic advent calendars. We also saw signs customers were buying festive gifts early, albeit where necessary from grocery and digital retailers as physical shops were closed across 11 local authorities.

“For many retailers it’s all going to come down to December trading; and in West and Central Scotland the last 14 days running up to Christmas. One in eight pounds is traditionally spent in December, so there will be opportunities for stores to attract customers. However, unless we see a big change from the last ten months of falling sales and declining footfall, it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of businesses in January. With that in mind, early clarity on business rates relief and a commitment to a high street voucher to stimulate some spending would be very welcome from Scottish Ministers in the near future.”

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

“November’s data reflects the near-daily fight for survival facing many of Scotland’s retailers. Ongoing localised lockdowns, including Scotland’s biggest retail centre, Glasgow, has hit the sector at a time when it usually reaps the rewards from a pre-Christmas sales surge.

“To some extent, we’re witnessing a tale of two halves, with food sales continuing to perform relatively well, buoyed by the news that families can meet for Christmas, and the closure of hospitality venues, which appears to have created a short wave of stockpiling. However, with non-food takings slumping to a decline of more than 22 percent, it’s clear the industry is far from any sign of recovery. Naturally, a vaccination rollout programme should slowly deliver a return to some form of normality in 2021, but it could be years before Scotland’s retail sector returns to stability and growth.”


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