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Better figures for high street

Pre-Easter lift for retailers as shoppers return

Princes St shoppingRetailers received a welcome boost in the run-up to Easter with figures showing some signs of stability.

Sales were among the strongest of the past year. The grocery sector continued to build momentum to its long haul out of the doldrums and a deflation-adjusted decline in total food sales of only 0.6% was the best non-Christmas or Easter performance for two years.

Non-food sales growth of 1.8%, adjusted for online sales, is well ahead of the twelve-month average of 0.6% and was driven by spending on the home – usually a sign of greater confidence – as well as sentiment around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Despite clothing retailers continuing to run promotions to cover the lost ground made in January, this was the worst performing sector.

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Retail sales in Scotland saw a welcome return to growth last month, once adjusted for falling shop prices, which was a pleasant contrast to the dire performance witnessed in January and which most retailers were glad to see the back of.

“Indeed the overall monthly performance at store-level was the third best of the past year. Non-food retail sales growth, once adjusted for the effect of online purchasing, was solid driven by categories like furniture and home accessories, mobile phones, stationery and beauty products. The total value of grocery sales eased down once again in stores but performed ahead of the three-month average.

“Notwithstanding this more encouraging data, the exponential growth of government-imposed tax and regulatory costs remains a pressing problem at a time of great structural upheaval for the retail industry. Retailers are looking to the Chancellor’s Budget and the Holyrood election for a clear demonstration that our politicians recognise the challenges facing the industry, and that they are prepared to take concerted action to reduce the cost of doing business in Scotland.”

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Following a challenging January, there is a sense of improvement in Scotland’s retail sales figures this month, giving retailers some confidence that Scottish consumers are reacting to the normal operating levers.  Although the weather didn’t relent for much of February, successful seasonal campaigns helped lift the gloom for many retailers.

“The headline figures may be negative but closer scrutiny gives cause for optimism leading up to Easter.

“Easter falls early this year and the fashion world will hope for warmer weather to build momentum for the Spring/Summer collections.

“The Budget looms this afternoon and the retail sector, braced for the implementation of the National Living Wage, will be hoping for some measures to drive consumer confidence and spending.”

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