Scottish Retail Sales Monitor

Scottish Retail Edges Closer to Pre-Pandemic Levels

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

January saw the best Scottish sales figures in six months as shops kicked off 2022 with tentative signs of a recovery. Whilst these figures are littered with caveats – the value of sales remain nearly eight percent below pre-pandemic figures and are bolstered by inflation – it’s nonetheless welcome to see an improving performance after a dreadful end to 2021.Food sales fell back into negative territory compared to last year, hardly surprising considering Scotland was locked down with eateries shuttered, but were 3.3 percent up on 2020. However, much of that growth derives from increased inflation which grocers are now being forced to pass onto customers through higher prices.  Non-food sales were quite positive with childrenswear, men’s smart clothing, and furniture all performing well.It’s too early to tell if this is the start of a shopping revival in Scotland, but these figures will provide a little respite for a shattered retail industry. Nonetheless, there are immense headwinds battering stores right now, with high inflation, rising public policy costs, and stretched household finances all making trading difficult. Hopefully there will be brighter skies ahead, but it looks it will be sometime until we arrive there.

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

An encouraging start to the year is welcome news, but with inflation impacting both consumers and retailers, the months ahead will require a balanced approach to drive growth. There are clear signs we’re edging closer to traditional trading patterns and sales falling back into line with pre-pandemic levels. Normally a quiet trading month, January’s strong performance was fuelled by non-food sales, with notable performers including formal office wear, mirroring the return to the office for many.
It remains to be seen if sales will continue to grow and move towards levels we saw before the pandemic. Scottish households will be feeling the pinch in the months ahead, with rising energy and fuel prices being compounded by inflation which is due to peak in April. Retailers are facing their own inflationary pressures and will need to take tough decisions on whether and how to pass on the increased costs they have been sitting on for some time to consumers facing their own financial challenges.  We could easily see the health of the sector start to deteriorate if consumers choose to sit on savings to weather the storm.


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