Scottish retail sales for February fell by 22% against the prior year, the fourth worst monthly performance in the past year, according to the latest Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG figures.
The SRC claimed that the fall in sales was only aided by a small but “nonetheless discernible boost” in kids clothing sales ahead of primary school children returning to school.
David Lonsdale, director, SRC explained that grocery sales remained “buoyant” although the slippage in the growth rate to 3% was the “slowest” since August and was “underwhelming” when eateries and hospitality businesses remain shuttered.
He added that the main event in February was Valentine’s Day, which encouraged positive food sales. Despite the boost, however, sales remained down by more than a fifth, with Lonsdale suggesting it is clear that retail has “suffered immensely” from the lockdown restrictions imposed in response to Covid.
He said: “However, this month’s figures suggest that there is suppressed demand in the economy. With the evidence continuing to show retail is a low-risk environment this reaffirms the important role the industry can play in restarting the economy when it’s safe to do so.”
Paul Martin, partner, UK head of retail, KPMG, weighed in by suggesting that while there has been a “modest improvement” on January’s “poor results”, the latest figures reinforce the fact that the challenges facing the sector show “little sign of easing quickly”.
He said: “The recent UK and Scottish Budgets provided some short-term lifeline support to shops, but for many retailers – both independent and national – thinner margins, rising costs and a transformation in consumer behaviour could be the breaking point for the industry.
“However, we should have a degree of optimism that some lost ground will be regained as warmer weather, a successful vaccine rollout and fewer regulations encourage spenders back to Scotland’s struggling High Streets.”