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Impact of lockdown

‘Worst retail sales ever’ as shoppers hang on to cash

Victoria Street

Lockdown has hit consumer confidence (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland saw the “worst overall retail sales performance ever’ last month as the country’s shops suffered the first impact of the coronavirus.

Total sales slumped 13% year on year in a month of two halves with growth of 9% in the first three weeks of March, followed by a decline of 44% in the last two weeks of the period.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy & external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “These are truly dismal figures which expose just how hard retail has been hammered by coronavirus.

“The worst overall retail sales performance ever. The worst non-food sales ever. The worst fashion and footwear sales ever.  March was nothing less than a shocker on Scotland’s High Streets.”

With shoppers stockpiling ,total food sales increased 12.1% on a year ago, but non-food fell by 33.6%.

Mr MacDonald Russell added: “Beneath the headline figures is a tale of extreme polarisation. The first three weeks of the trading period saw unprecedented levels of grocery shopping, with household staples being stockpiled, before sales fell back into negative territory in the last two weeks.

“Across the month office supplies, toys and games, health and hygiene products, and fridges and freezers all saw stellar growth as customers adapted homes for lockdown.

“Conversely the bad news was truly rotten.  Fashion and footwear sales collapsed. Large item sales crumbled as consumer confidence fell sharply. Across the board consumers appear to be reducing spending as they adapt to these new circumstances and economic concerns.”

The bad news was truly rotten

– Ewan MacDonald Russell, SRC

He acknowledged that the Scottish and UK Governments have made unprecedented fiscal interventions to support the economy.

“Those vital and welcome schemes, including rates relief, worker support, and grants, are keeping many retailers afloat.”

Paul Martin, Partner, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Following an already incredibly challenging twelve months for Scotland’s retail sector, it’s impossible to underestimate the impact the Coronavirus pandemic is now having on the industry.

“However, the industry is resilient. It’s been through many challenges in the past and it’s now playing a key role in helping to keep the country supplied and fed through a crisis.”

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