Scottish Retail Sales Monitor
Late Return to Stores Brings Slight Relief
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium:
“Scottish retail sales remained in a funk last month, down by a sixth on the comparable pre-pandemic trading period two years ago. While the re-opening of non-essential stores and associated pent up demand in the final week of April provided a much-needed fillip, especially for fashion retailers, it couldn’t make up for the rest of the month. Scotland lagged well behind the UK as a whole, unsurprising after shops here missed out on an extra fortnight of trading compared to counterparts in Wales and England.
“Clothing and footwear were the biggest beneficiaries of the reopening of stores after lockdown - as people were able to get out and visit their favourite shops, see items in person, and improve their wardrobes for the return of indoor and outdoor socialising in restaurants and pubs. Outdoor clothing, knitwear, and footwear all saw an uptick, as Scots braved the cold weather for outdoor engagements with family and friends. Larger items of furniture, home textiles, and white goods fared well as customers were able to inspect, touch and feel products for the first time in months. Cosmetics did better than of late, but cookware came off the boil as people were able to return to eating out towards end of the month.
“Whilst the reopening of stores rounded off an encouraging end to the month, the prospects for the immediate future remain uncertain. The re-opening of parts of the hospitality, cultural and leisure sectors should generate more shopper footfall, however more needs to be done to bring the energy and footfall back into our city centres - beginning with a plan for the safe return of office workers and reassurance for people that public transport is safe.”
Paul Martin, Partner, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:
“The reopening of non-essential stores was not enough to stop total retail sales falling further in April. However, last month was still far from business as usual. April 2020 was the peak of lockdown, so we must make comparisons against April 2019, when the sector was operating under normal conditions and experiencing a boost in food sales ahead of Easter.
“We can expect the Scottish high street’s performance to improve in the months ahead. Lockdown ended late in April, during a spate of unseasonably cold weather, but consumers still took advantage of shops reopening and pushed clothing sales closer to pre-pandemic levels. Online sales dipped as people waited for the opportunity to shop in person again, but it’s too early to see how Covid-19 will affect preferences long term. The balance between bricks and mortar and e-commerce was shifting long before the pandemic, and will continue to challenge retailers as restrictions ease.”