Scottish Retail Sales Monitor
Scots Shop Sales Slide Continues With Bleak November Figures
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, Head of Policy, Scottish Retail Consortium:
November was less Black Friday and more bleak winter as Scottish retail sales slipped by 13.4 percent compared to pre-pandemic trading. This is deeply concerning for the industry who have seen weak and disappointing trading for the first two months of the golden trading quarter. With the Omicron variant of Covid now posing a question about consumer demand and going out the prospects for strong trading in the final days up to Christmas look decidedly uncertain.
Food sales remain a bright spot with growth on pre-pandemic sales, albeit much of that growth will be the result of higher food prices as supply chain pressures start to feed through. In non-food Black Friday appeared to be less of an event – with online purchases being replaced in some cases by higher store-based purchases as customers sought to maximise the chance of products being available.
Retailers are trading in intensely difficult conditions with consumers facing rising costs and an uptick in uncertainty with the rise in Covid cases. It’s therefore disappointing the Scottish Government failed to provide the support necessary for retailers in last week’s Budget. That looked like a short-sighted decision at the time, and these figures provide further proof the industry would have benefitted from support. If trading doesn’t improve substantially or if restrictions are placed upon the industry or shoppers in the near future, then Scottish Ministers will need to revisit this approach if they don’t want to deal with the consequences for stores or the health of our retail destinations in 2022.
Paul Martin, Partner, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:
Scots determined to enjoy Christmas hit the high street in November with sales up 2.6% compared to the same period last year. While that may sound positive, it’s important to remember that in November 2020, a large slice of Scotland entered local lockdowns, pushing many consumers to buy goods online. That makes these figures reasonably unimpressive, particularly as they remain some way off pre-pandemic levels of spending.
Scotland’s high streets dominated sales growth in November, helped by the fact consumers were given extra confidence by the vaccine and booster roll out, and were motivated to secure the gifts they wanted for Christmas at physical stores rather than online. Retailers will be hoping consumer confidence builds in December and will be keeping a very close eye on the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 updates, as we head into the vital few shopping weeks before Christmas.
As we look ahead to the new year, rising costs continue to bite into margins. Supply chain issues have impacted the availability of goods, leaving retailers with very little room for the mega discounting events we have seen in previous January sales.