Black Friday sales in Scotland were a “damp squib” as retailers experienced a “lacklustre” trading month ahead of the festive season, according to the latest figures.
Retail experts said shops are experiencing a “weak Christmas trading period” as the so-called golden quarter in Scotland has already experienced two months with sales growth below 3%.
Total sales in Scotland increased by 3.1% last month compared with November 2022, when they had grown 8%, the latest Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG retail sales monitor showed.
This was below the three-month average increase of 4.2% and below the 12-month average growth of 7.8%.
Adjusted for inflation, the year-on-year decline was 1.2%.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, SRC deputy head, said: “Black Friday sales were a damp squib for Scotland’s retailers as sales fell in real terms in November.
“Adjusted for inflation, retail sales fell by 1.2%, the fifth successive month of declining performance, including the first two months of the ‘golden trading quarter’.
“Food sales rose by 5.8%, but this was below the three-month average as reduced levels of inflation start to feed through to consumers.
“Cosmetics and fragrances performed reasonably well because of early discounting, with perennial favourite beauty advent calendars proving popular.
“Shoppers continue to shy away from larger purchases, and it appears many are holding back festive gift spending, either hoping for further discounts ahead of Christmas itself or just cutting back in the face of the continued cost of living squeeze.
“If retailers oblige with discounts, that will further eat into already narrow margins in what is traditionally the most profitable trading period.
“These figures are concerning for hard-pressed retailers, many of whom desperately need a good last quarter of 2023 to get them through the traditionally fallow months at the start of next year.”
The figures showed Scottish sales last month increased by 3.8% on a like-for-like basis compared with November 2022, when they had increased by 5.5%.
This is below the three-month average increase of 4.2% and the 12-month average growth of 6.1%.
Total non-food sales increased by 0.9% in November compared with November 2022, when they had increased by 4.2%.
Adjusted for the estimated effect of online sales, total non-food sales decreased by 0.2% in November versus November 2022, when they had increased by 4.0%.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “As Christmas approaches, sales growth in November remained lacklustre at 3.1% across Scotland, despite retailers making a significant push with Black Friday deals.”
He added: “The critical golden quarter in Scotland has already experienced two months with sales growth below 3%, making it a weak Christmas trading period.
“The prospect of excess stock remaining unsold before Christmas raises the possibility of substantial January sales, potentially exerting even more pressure on already tight profit margins.
“Looking ahead to the early months of 2024, the challenges are expected to persist, posing a threat to the sector and potentially leading to more casualties, especially for online retailers facing over 28 consecutive months of sales decline.”
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