May’s washout hits Scottish high streets

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Last month’s cool and damp weather saw Scottish high streets suffer their sharpest drop in sales in more than two years, figures published today reveal.

Total sales fell by 3.1 per cent in May compared with a year earlier, when they had decreased by 1.6 per cent, according to the latest Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG sales monitor.

Cold and wet weather deterred shoppers. Picture: John Devlin

Cold and wet weather deterred shoppers. Picture: John Devlin

Like-for-like sales, which exclude any spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, decreased by 3.5 per cent on last May.

When adjusted for deflation measured by the BRC-Nielsen shop price index, total Scottish sales decreased by 1.2 per cent, their deepest decline since November 2012, excluding Easter distortions.

Today’s report suggests that the cold, wet weather deterred shoppers from buying retailers’ spring/summer fashion ranges last month. It follows weak footfall numbers, which were released on Monday.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountancy giant KPMG, said: “Chilly winds blew up Scottish high streets in May as retail sales declined at rates not seen since 2012.

“Lower prices and more optimistic jobs outlook are yet to lift spending”

David Lonsdale

“The worst declines were in fashion and footwear, whose early spring revival took a setback as May’s weather turned for the worse.

“There will be fingers crossed in the fashion trade for some sustained summer weather throughout June to boost sales before the holiday season, rather than be forced into heavy discounting.”

He said the outdoor living and DIY retail categories had also suffered with the cooler weather, though home furnishings and health and beauty showed “resilience”.

“With the whole of the UK showing continuous growth in non-food sales, retailers will be keen to see Scottish consumers have the confidence to catch up and narrow the gap,” added McCorquodale.

“[Retailers] know hard work lies ahead over the summer months as Scotland will have less footfall without the repeat of last year’s major sporting events hosted during the summer.”

Total food sales last month were 2.1 per cent down on May 2014, when they had decreased 2 per cent. Adjusted for the estimated effect of online sales in Scotland, total non-food sales decreased by 2.4 per cent over May 2014, when they had increased by 0.5 per cent.

This is the deepest decline since the report began measuring the online effect in December 2012.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, attributed the “sluggish performance” to lacklustre clothing and footwear sales and an overall drop in shopper footfall last month. Monday’s footfall statistics revealed the first fall in shopper numbers, as recorded at prime sites across the country, for four months.

Lonsdae said today: “Lower prices in shops and at the petrol pump and a more optimistic outlook for jobs and wages growth have yet to translate into increased consumer spending at shop tills.

“Retailers will be looking to the Chancellor in his upcoming summer Budget for measures to help consumer spending take wing.”

The SRC-KPMG sales monitor measures changes in the actual value (including VAT) of retail sales excluding fuel. It measures the value of spending and therefore does not adjust for price or VAT changes.

If prices are rising, sales volumes will increase by less than sales values. In times of price deflation, sales volumes will increase by more than sales values.