Retail boost

Bank holidays and inflation lift Scottish shop sales

Retail, Multrees Walk
Shoppers took to the streets in May (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland went shopping last month as the three bank holidays, including the King’s Coronation weekend, together with sunny weather, tempted consumers to go on a spending spree.

Total sales for the four weeks 30 April to 27 May soared by 10.9% compared to last year when they grew by just 1.6%. Adjusted for inflation, the year-on-year growth was 2%

The figures were boosted by food sales, driven by inflation, which rose by 16.2% on last May 2022, when they increased by 1.8%. Non-food sales increased by 6.5%.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy & external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Scottish shoppers took to the high street in a May bank holiday bonanza as the extra holidays, King’s Coronation and sunny weather finally tempted consumers to restart spending.”

Sales were up 2% in real terms, with most of the growth coming in clothing and footwear as consumers freshened up wardrobes with spring and summer lines.

The value of food sales continue to increase enormously, driven by near record food inflation. Grocery sales saw a rise in food and drink aimed at larger gatherings and al fresco dining as the extra holidays encouraged socialising outdoors following a wet March and April.

Non-food sales saw strong rises in clothing sales, but also in DIY and horticulture as householders attempted to bring order to their gardens.

“Notwithstanding this stronger performance, the overarching issue remains stubbornly high inflation,” said Mr MackDonald Russell.

“It’s clear consumers are waiting until items are essential before making purchases, and that there is very little discretionary spending available.

“Whilst there is some hope inflation may start to subside, one slightly better month doesn’t mean the storm clouds over the economy are likely to dissipate anytime soon.”

Paul Martin, partner and UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers will be hoping that inflation levels in the wider economy continue to move in the right direction in order to boost much needed consumer confidence. 

“The wild card for the retail sector remains uncontrollable food inflation, which shows little sign of coming down in the near future and is having a significant knock on effect on non-essential spending.

“Scottish consumers are resilient, but with stubbornly high food inflation continuing and the prospect of further interest rate rises threatening to impact their ability to spend elsewhere, it is likely to be a long, hot summer for the retail sector.”

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