‘Disappointing’ April for retailers as sales fall 3.2%

Consumer confidence was dented by political uncertainty. Picture: Scott Louden
Consumer confidence was dented by political uncertainty. Picture: Scott Louden
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Retailers experienced a “disappointing” month in April with sales down 3.2 per cent as retail chiefs blamed political uncertainty for denting consumer confidence.

Food sales decreased by 1.7 per cent, with non-food takings down 4.4 per cent – their worst performance since November 2012.

Clothing and footwear was the worst-performing category during the four weeks to 30 April, affected by the wet and cold weather. Outdoor goods also suffered, with outdoor toys, sporting goods and DIY sales reported as disappointing.

Grocery sales, while down, were the best-performing category and cosmetics continued to do well, as did slimming products, according to the study from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG.

READ MORE: Brexit uncertainty blamed for declining Scots footfall

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Falls were witnessed across all retail categories. Sales of non-food items in particular recorded a marked fall, the poorest monthly result in over three years.

“Unfortunately, even accounting for online sales didn’t turn the non-food category into positive territory, with clothing and footwear especially feeble and posting their weakest performance for eight years.

“Customers remain cash-conscious and retail spending is fragile, perhaps weighed down by talk over recent weeks of higher taxes on wages and for council services.

“Hopefully our new MSPs can channel their collective energies into creating the conditions which help lift private-sector growth and inject some much-needed consumer spending and confidence into the economy.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: “Larger ticket sales in the non-food category may have suffered from low consumer confidence and political uncertainty caused by the election and upcoming referendum.

“The grocery market continues to battle the headwinds of deflation and over-capacity, which is positive for the consumer but challenging for the retailers who strive to increase the loyalty of their customers.

“With the cost base of retailers permanently hit by the introduction of the National Living Wage, the relentless drive for improved sales and productivity is forcing them to consider their own business models.

“Some high-profile retail failures remind us that adapting to survive is as important as ever for the future of the sector.”