Boost for retailers
Sun and sport lures shoppers into high street
Warm weather brought shoppers into the high street (pic: Terry Murden)
Hot weather and a bumper summer of sport gave high streets a welcome relief from the twin pressures of online shopping and soaring costs.
Scottish sales increased by 2% in June on a like-for-like basis compared with last year when they rose by just 0.2%. This is above the three-month average of 0.2%.
Total sales in Scotland increased by 2.7% compared with June 2017, when they fell by 0.5%. This is the highest since January 2014 and above the three-month and twelve-month averages of 0.8% and 0.5% respectively. Total food sales increased 4.8% on June 2017 and non-food sales by 1%.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy & external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Some superb weather and a bumper summer of sport saw retail sales continue to shine in June.
“Scots, perhaps unused to one of the hottest Junes in a century, sought out drinks, fans, barbeques and paddling pools to cool off and enjoy the sunshine.
“Food sales continued their strong performance in 2018. Consumers were keen on picnic and barbeque food, reflecting the unusual opportunity to consistently eat outside.
“There were also strong drinks sales due both to the weather, but also as a result of the series of sporting events on television, not least the World Cup.
“It was heartening to see a second month of non-food sales growth after a difficult start to the year.
“The big question is whether shoppers will continue to act so positively once the weather returns to normal. In the autumn retailers will have a clearer sense of whether this was a shoppers’ summer fling or a more serious commitment from consumers.”
Despite the better figures, stores continue to struggle, with Poundworld the latest to close outlets. It will shut a further 40 stores on 24 July, resulting 531 more job losses, 95 in Scotland.
The discount retailer has already announced plans to close 105 of its 335 stores, having failed to strike a rescue deal.
Administrator, Deloitte, said it was looking for buyers for all, or parts, of the remaining business.
The latest closures are: Aberdeen, Ashton Under Lyne, Bangor, Belfast, Blackwood, Bury, Castleford, Chatham, Crystal Peaks, Doncaster, Dunfermline, East Kilbride, Edmonton, Guiseley, Hull, Irvine (Rivergate shopping centre), Irvine (Riverway retail park), Kettering BB, Middlesbrough, Newbury, Newcastle, Newport, Newtownards, Perth, Peterlee, Plymouth, Preston, Queensferry, Redcar, Robroyston, Rochdale, Rotherham Parkgate, Southend, Southport, St Helens, Sutton, Swindon, Tottenham, West Bromwich and Wigan.
Labour critical of falling apprenticeships
The number of retail apprenticeship starts has plummeted by more than a quarter, according to Scottish Labour.
Since 2013/14, the number starting a modern apprenticeship in retail or customer service has fallen from 3,072 to 2,263 last year.
Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie – who is meeting the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) today to discuss the figures – said the decline showed SNP ministers needed to do much more than “just pat themselves on the back” if modern apprenticeships were going to fully benefit the economy.
Ms Baillie said: “Modern Apprenticeships open up fantastic opportunities for training and qualifications in many new areas of employment, including retail and customer services.
“SNP ministers should be listening to organisations such as the Scottish Retail Consortium about how to make modern apprenticeships work better.”
Labour says the SRC and other businesses have complained about the application of the Apprenticeship Levy in Scotland which differs from England.
However, the retail sector is also concerned about rising business rates and the pressures from online retail which are forcing stores to close. This is causing a decline in job opportunities.