Scottish retail sales still ‘touch below pre-pandemic levels’

Figures for June show a three percent decrease for total sales in Scotland compared to the same month in 2019.

Scottish retail sales still ‘touch below pre-pandemic levels’ iStock

Retail sales in Scotland “remained a touch below pre-pandemic levels” in the month before the move to Level 0, according to experts.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor figures for June show a three percent decrease for total sales in Scotland compared to the same month in 2019 when they had decreased by 2.3%.

Figures are compared to pre-pandemic levels for a more meaningful comparison rather than 2020 when shops were opening and closing amid different coronavirus restrictions.

Total food sales increased 5.5% in June 2021 when they were up 0.8% in 2019, while total non-food sales decreased 10.1% last month having dropped 4.8% two years ago.

David Lonsdale, SRC director, said: “Scottish retail sales eked out a further modest improvement in June, the second full month since all shops were permitted to reopen, recording the best monthly performance since the onset of Covid.

“That said, retail sales remained a touch below pre-pandemic levels with the shallowest monthly decline in 16 months, which serves to underline the protracted nature of the industry’s climb back to recovery.

“The European Championships gave a fillip to sales of televisions as well as food and drink, and fashion categories did slightly better than of late driven by the return of some aspects of socialising.

“Looking forward, retailers will be buoyed by the continued success with the vaccination rollout and the greater reopening of the economy and easing of restrictions, especially on events and return to offices.

“This should boost demand, particularly for those stores more reliant on the hustle and bustle of traditionally higher footfall locations in our city centres and shopping malls.

“Thousands of jobs in Scottish stores and in the supply chain ultimately depend on the ongoing support of the Scottish public, and that support over the coming weeks and months will determine the future vibrancy of our retail destinations and city centres.”

He also said “Covid continues to cast a shadow” with weak footfall among the factors still faced by retailers.

A lack of foreign holidays, larger gatherings, occasions such as weddings and no return to offices yet “continues to put a dampener on and hold back” areas including formal wear, holiday-related beachwear and sunscreen, and impulse buys such as beauty products.

Paul Martin, KPMG UK head of retail partner, also warned: “The pandemic isn’t over.

“Scottish retailers are still contending with restrictions and the absence of many traditional drivers of summer footfall, such as holidays abroad.

“While the picture improved slightly, the widening gap between food and non-food sales shows many consumers continued to choose home over the high street in June.

“But, in this climate, incremental successes must be welcomed, and this week’s nationwide drop to Level 0 could push retail sales into growth mode.

“If this happens, we will enter a new phase of the sector’s recovery from Covid-19.

“To sustain growth, Scottish retailers will need to consider how best to meet the demands of consumers in a post-pandemic world.”