As sales dip in July...

Let shops decide on New Year’s Day opening, says retail chief

Multrees Walk, shop, retail, Edinburgh

Labour MSP wants shops to close (pic: Terry Murden)

A retail chief has defended the right of shops to open on New Year’s Day against calls for a ban from Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.

Ms Baillie has tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the government to shut stores for the benefit of staff welfare. Under legislation passed by Holyrood a dozen years ago shops are already banned from opening on Christmas Day.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said stores are already struggling for trade and should be allowed to open as they see fit.

“Where there is demand from customers and availability of staff then shops ought to continue to be free to choose to open on New Year’s Day if they so wish,” he said.

“The notion of banning trading on Ne’er Day is outdated and ill-thought out considering customers can already shop online whenever they choose.

“It is also unclear why shops have been singled out and not businesses in sectors such as hospitality, tourism and leisure. Implementing a trading ban would send out a very poor signal, and would fly in the face of the strenuous efforts being made to revitalise our high streets and to promote Scotland as a visitor destination at New Year.”

His comments came as latest data shows total sales in Scotland in July decreased by 0.3% compared with July 2018, when they had increased by 1.1%.

Mr Lonsdale said: “The value of Scottish retail sales edged down last month, admittedly after a tough comparable July in 2018. The dip was at a much more modest rate than witnessed the previous month and comes after disappointing footfall figures unveiled earlier this week.

“Shoppers have kept a firm grip on their purses and wallets of late, with July rounding off an underwhelming three months for the industry. Indeed, over the past year as a whole retail sales have essentially been flat.

“Discounting was more prominent during the month, to the benefit of consumers, but at a cost to retailers in terms of their profit margins.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “The latest figures will not provide much welcome news and the long-term outlook for Scotland’s high streets continues to remain challenging. “

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