Impact on high street

Warning for jobs and tax revenue as shops lose £1.9bn

Princes Street, Edinburgh

Shops suffered four months of double digit falls (pic: Terry Murden)

Retailers in Scotland lost £1.9 billion in sales during the first four months of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to new analysis.

Industry leaders are now warning that any prolonged absence of office worker, tourists and students will have huge consequences for jobs, lettings and tax revenues.

Scottish retail sales recorded four successive months of double-digit decline between March and June.

The analysis is based on data from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Retail Consortium.

It found the performance of Scottish retail sales improved in June but was still down almost a fifth on the same period last year, and lagged behind that of the UK as a whole.

Non-essential shops in Scotland were permitted to re-open from 29 June, with stores in shopping centres allowed to re-open from 13 July.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale: challenging (pic: Terry Murden)

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “These figures are stark and show that retail sales crumbled over the first four months of the pandemic.

“Not all retail sub-sectors were impacted equally, with fashion, clothing and footwear faring particularly poorly.

“Shops and retail jobs depend on the ongoing patronage of the public and whilst the situation is gradually improving, it remains particularly acute in our city centres where stores are suffering huge drops in footfall.

“Any prolonged absence of office workers, students and tourists from Scotland’s city centres will be hugely challenging for retail and hospitality businesses who rely on their custom, and who often already face high property costs. This will have consequences for jobs, vacant premises, and tax revenues.”

Online tax

The latest data comes as the Chancellor is considering a new tax on goods sold online.

Adam Harper, AAT director of strategy at the Association of Accounting Technicians, said: “The Office for National Statistics released figures indicating that online spending as a proportion of total sales stood at 31.8% in June in comparison to pre-pandemic levels of approximately 20%.

“Whilst the June figure has reduced slightly from the May position – which was before much of the high street re-opened – it is reasonable to assume that this trend amongst consumers will continue. This is further supported by the news that Amazon is looking to expand its UK online grocery service.”

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