Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Sales Cool as Lockdown Tightens Grip

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

“January’s Scottish sales figures show shops remain trapped in the depths of a dark and dismal winter. Spending plunged as shops were forced to shutter shops and, in many cases, discontinue click and collect services. The figures were the worst monthly performance since April and the worst ever January results and lengthened the run of failing sales figures to twelve successive months.

“There was little positive to report, with the only significant growth in food sales, albeit in the context of no competition from eating out as a result of the closed down hospitality trade. Conversely there was bad news across non-food stores, with physical non-food retail seeing sales fall by half. Furniture retailers were feeling the pain after missing out on a key season; and other retailers continue to have to contend with immense logistical pressures as the lack of notice and ever-shifting regulations put exceptional pressure on operational models.

“The SRC welcomed the recent announcement from the Finance Secretary setting out retailers could expect a three month extension to the current full business rates relief. Nonetheless, the pressure of extended lockdown is taking its toll on shattered shops. It’s to be hoped the Scottish Government can extend that relief further when it unveils its Budget accord with another party next month, along with further measures to help encourage shoppers to return to the high street when eventually stores can reopen.”

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

“It should come as no surprise that Scottish retail figures remain subdued. With fresh restrictions introduced at the start of January, retailers have had to contend with another month of empty High Streets as consumers stayed at home. Poor weather has exacerbated the issues, creating a perfect storm, with a total decline of almost 30% representing the worst figures we’ve seen since April last year.

“We’ve reported for some time on the shift to online buying, but there’s also growing evidence consumers are pressing pause on big purchases as they wait for a return to a degree of normality later in the year, and that’s creating additional logistical costs for retailers. While the latest data clearly reinforces the precarious position the industry is in, there are some reasons for cautious optimism. The vaccine rollout continues at pace and business rates relief has been extended. For some traders that could be enough to get them through the final stages of this crisis, but it could be too little, too late for others who’ve faced twelve relentless months of difficulty.”


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