Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Return to School Fails to Stem Sales Decline

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium:

“February wasn’t quite as dismal as January for Scottish retail sales, but the overall picture remains unremittingly bleak. Sales fell in real terms by 22 percent, the fourth worst monthly performance in the past year, and were only aided by a small but nonetheless discernible boost in kids clothing sales ahead of primary children returning to school.

“Grocery sales remained buoyant, although the slippage in the growth rate to three percent was the slowest since August and was underwhelming when eateries and hospitality businesses remain shuttered. The main event was Valentine’s Day which saw positive food sales as couples celebrated at home. With Scots stuck at home and unable to visit shops non-food categories remained in the doldrums, although school clothing and shoes provided a chink of light for hard-pressed fashion retailers as parents prepared children for the return to the classroom.

“With sales down by more than a fifth it’s clear retail has suffered immensely from the lockdown restrictions imposed in response to Covid. However, this month’s figures suggest that there is suppressed demand in the economy. With the evidence continuing to show retail is a low-risk environment this reaffirms the important role the industry can play in restarting the economy when it’s safe to do so.”

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

“The latest data suggests that Scottish consumers are continuing to tighten their belts and pause on spending until restrictions are eased. While there has been a modest improvement on January’s poor results, total sales year-on-year are down 21% and non-food takings are down more than 47%, reinforcing the fact that the challenges facing the sector show little sign of easing quickly.

“All eyes will be on the next two months as restrictions are gradually eased and we’re able to directly compare with the start of lockdown in March 2020. The recent UK and Scottish Budgets provided some short-term lifeline support to shops, but for many retailers – both independent and national – thinner margins, rising costs and a transformation in consumer behaviour could be the breaking point for the industry.  However, we should have a degree of optimism that some lost ground will be regained as warmer weather, a successful vaccine rollout and fewer regulations encourage spenders back to Scotland’s struggling High Streets.”


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