Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Slow Return Towards Retail Normality Continues

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

Retailers continue to benefit from the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and the return to shops with May showing the best retail sales figures in 15 months. However, despite evidence of pent up demand coming through sales still failed to break into positive territory, remaining below the comparable May 2019 figures.Food sales remain in growth, albeit slightly reduced as eateries reopen. Online sales fell back with customers returning to stores, but there wasn’t enough of a high street boost to push the figures into positive territory. Fashion and beauty sales continue to struggle, not helped by the dreich May weather and lack of clarity over summer holiday plans which discouraged customers from refreshing wardrobes.Hopefully retail is now on a path back to growth – however it’s clear the industry is not yet out of the woods, and with little sign that the lost retail sales of the past 15 months will be recouped. With sales still negative and the cost of operating under the current restrictions onerous retailers will continue to struggle to be profitable. In that context early sight of the roadmap to removing restrictions and encouraging workers safely back to city centres is a priority for the industry.

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

The retail sales growth we’d hoped for in May didn’t materialise. However, there are positive signs for the months ahead. Food sales continue to perform well and non-food sales at bricks and mortar stores improved during the first full month of Scotland’s high streets reopening. If poor weather deterred shoppers in May, the warmer conditions we’re experiencing now could turn the tide.And while a fall in online sales pulled non-food down overall, it would be wrong to view this as a long-term trend. The overall conditions for Scottish retailers are still in a state of flux. We won’t get a clear indication of how shopping preferences have been impacted by the pandemic until lockdown restrictions have been fully lifted. For now, prudent retailers will need to focus on cost and efficiency whilst focussing on their omni-channel future.


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