Call for Brexit resolution as Scots stay away from high street

The Scottish high street has suffered its fifth successive month of shrinking sales as consumers hold back from serious spending commitments, a report today suggests.

Retailers will be hoping for a boost as they enter the crucial festive trading period. Picture: John Devlin

Retail industry leaders called for an “urgent Brexit resolution” ahead of the crucial festive trading period as it emerged that total sales in Scotland had fallen by almost 2 per cent last month, compared with September 2018.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which conducts the monthly retail sales monitor in conjunction with KPMG, said: “September proved little relief for retailers as shoppers shunned high streets to focus on necessities.

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“Overall retail sales fell by 1.9 per cent on a total basis, the fifth successive month of shrinking sales.

Last month proved a bit of a washout for many retailers. Picture: Ian Georgeson

“Food sales remained solid with retailers noting summer favourites such as strawberries continued to be enjoyed. However, the real concern comes in non-food with a 5.4 per cent fall.

“Electronics, homeware, and beauty products all suffered from disinterested shoppers, whilst clothing sales were hampered by shoppers choosing summer discounts over autumnal ranges due to the warm weather. It’s undisputable consumers are holding back from serious spending commitments and it’s difficult not to conclude the impasse over the UK’s exit from the EU is a reason nervous shoppers are keeping their wallets and purses firmly closed.

“To prevent life on the high street becoming even harder an urgent Brexit resolution is needed ahead of the vital Christmas trading period.”

Worse than average

The 1.9 per cent year-on-year decline last month is worse than the three-month average fall of 0.9 per cent and the 12-month average decline of 0.4 per cent.

Sales fell by 2.3 per cent measured on a like-for-like basis, compared with September 2018. This is worse than the three-month average decrease of 1.3 per cent.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at accountancy giant KPMG, said: “With like-for-like sales declining by 2.3 per cent compared to last year, September’s results reflected the overwhelmingly challenging conditions facing Scotland’s high streets.

“Once again, food sales have helped to slow the rate of decline, with 2.3 per cent total growth, but the trend in non-food categories is one of long-term decline.

“There’s clear evidence that uncertainty – both politically and economically – is impacting consumer confidence with shoppers choosing to slim down unnecessary purchases and focus on the essentials.

“The next few months could be make-or-break for many of Scotland’s most high-profile brands. A clear strategy will be essential,” he added.

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Fresh high street blow as Scots shoppers tighten their belts