Retail sector hits best figures since pre-lockdown

The Scottish Retail Consortium said that sales were the best they had been in May since before lockdown.

Retail sector hits best figures since pre-lockdown Getty Images

Sales across Scotland’s retail sector were the best for more than 15 months in May, according to latest statistics.

However, figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) show total sales decreased by 3.6% on a two-year basis compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 3.1%.

This May was the best month for the sector since before lockdown, which saw shops and other businesses shut under coronavirus restrictions.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy at the SRC, said: “Retailers continue to benefit from the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and the return to shops, with May showing the best retail sales figures in 15 months.

“However, despite evidence of pent-up demand coming through sales still failed to break into positive territory, remaining below the comparable May 2019 figures.

“Food sales remain in growth, albeit slightly reduced as eateries reopen. Online sales fell back with customers returning to stores, but there wasn’t enough of a high street boost to push the figures into positive territory.

“Fashion and beauty sales continue to struggle, not helped by the dreich May weather and lack of clarity over summer holiday plans which discouraged customers from refreshing wardrobes.

“Hopefully retail is now on a path back to growth – however it’s clear the industry is not yet out of the woods, and with little sign that the lost retail sales of the past 15 months will be recouped.

“With sales still negative and the cost of operating under the current restrictions onerous, retailers will continue to struggle to be profitable.

“In that context, early sight of the road map to removing restrictions and encouraging workers safely back to city centres is a priority for the industry.”

The SRC has measured the figures against 2019, rather than last year, due to the impact coronavirus had on the sector.

Scottish sales increased by 6.8% on a two-year like-for-like basis compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 3.4%.

This is above the three-month average decrease of 3.7% and below the 2019 average decrease of 0.8%.

Total food sales increased 2.5% on a two-year basis versus May 2019, when they had increased by 0.5%.

May was below the three-month growth of 4.9% and the 2019 average growth of 2.4%.

Total non-food sales decreased by 8.7% in May on a two-year basis compared to the same period in 2019, when they had decreased by 6.1%.

This was above the three-month average fall of 25.8% and the 2019 average decline of 2.4%.

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