Better figures for high streets

Retailers in more buoyant mood ahead of Christmas rush

shoppingRetailers have seen an improvement in sales, providing  a timely pick up ahead of the key Christmas period.

Total Scottish sales increased by 0.7% last month, the fastest growth since August 2014, barring Easter distortions.

David Martin, head of policy and external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said September’s retail figures were up against a soft comparable period last year with the worst performance of 2014, but this did not detract from what was an upbeat month for retailers, especially in the non-food categories.

Excluding Easter distortions Scottish sales achieved their best performance since October 2014.  Adjusting for inflation Scotland saw the fastest sales growth since August 2014.

Driving much of the buoyancy in September was non-food categories including clothing and footwear.  Unlike other parts of the UK, Scottish sales growth was not positively distorted by a Bank Holiday.

Furniture and home categories also performed well in September as students, returning for the new semester, kitted-up on essentials.  More money spent on furnishings will be saved on food as grocery retailers continued to push volume at the cost of weaker like-for-like performance.

He said: “Looking ahead, the trading environment remains challenging for retailers not least in terms of the excessive burden of government-imposed operating costs, however they will be hoping to capitalise on improvements in consumer confidence in the lead up to the Christmas period.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at joint survey compiler KPMG, said: “September saw better sales figures but retailers will not be getting carried away.  Adjusted for deflation, sales in Scotland grew by 0.7%, the best growth for a year, excluding Easter distortions, but this is compared to the worst month of the last year.

“Food sales continued to decline in real terms as they have for the last 22 months, excluding Easter distortions, and much has already been said about the challenges in the grocery sector.  There was better news in non-food, again compared to a period last year when Referendum-fever had gripped the country and paused consumerism.  Fashion sales were boosted by more seasonal weather and sales of household products also did well.

“However, with the gap widening against the rest of the UK, retailers in Scotland expect a lot of hard work ahead to achieve a reasonable Christmas season.  Pricing and promotions will play a key role in driving demand and margin.”

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