October figures sluggish

Shop sales ‘sobering’ reminder of frail economy

David Lonsdale seriousScottish shoppers continued to shun the high street in October as sales fell by 2.4% on the same month a year ago. Like-for-like sales decreased by 2.8%.

Analysts described the figures as pallid and sobering and suggested shoppers were holding out for further discounts. The figures came as new stats on the economy showed prices continuing to fall with inflation for October remaining at -0.1%.

Total food sales in Scotland were 3.2% down on October 2014, and non-food sales decreased by 0.3%.

The three-month average total non-food sales growth was 0.5% (online adjusted) in Scotland against a growth of 2.9% in the UK, a 0.3 percentage point narrowing of the gap seen in September.

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, (pictured) said: “This rather pallid set of results paints a disappointing October overall for Scotland’s retailers, with total retail sales edging down again once falling shop prices are taken into account.

“Grocery sales were sluggish, albeit marginally ahead of the average over the past three months. Retail sales of non-food items nudged down a touch even when adjusted to include the contribution of online. Indeed the only category to report an increase was clothing and footwear and only once the impact of internet sales was taken into account. Halloween related items however such as kids fancy dress clothing did prove popular.

“It could be that shoppers are simply holding out for even better deals in the run up to Christmas, perhaps with an eye towards potential online discounting at the end of this month, despite the fact that shop prices are already at record lows.

“With the spotlight on the Autumn Statement and the Scottish Budget over the next few weeks, retailers will be hoping for measures which put money in peoples’ pockets and which encourage them to invest and grow.”

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Sluggish Scottish sales serve a sobering reminder of the frailty of the economic recovery when reflected in the discretionary spending of households.

“There is no doubt the declines in Scottish retail sales in October, when measured against a relatively weak month last year, are disappointing for retailers when set against mainly dry weather and temperatures only marginally warmer than average.

“It wasn’t cold enough for coats or boots, and with consumers perhaps waiting for heavy promotions, retailers were left pushing themed products for Halloween.

“The next few weeks are vital for retailers and, with the tactics around Black Friday and the run up to Christmas beginning to unfold, it will be interesting to see how much margin needs given up to drive sales volumes.”

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