Fresh high street blow as Scots shoppers tighten their belts

The new snapshot of high street spending suggests consumers are not buying big-ticket items. Picture: John Devlin
The new snapshot of high street spending suggests consumers are not buying big-ticket items. Picture: John Devlin
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Scottish retail sales were “stuck in a holding pattern” last month as the squeeze on consumer spending and political uncertainty continued, a report today suggests.

Total sales north of the Border fell by 0.2 per cent compared with August 2018, when they had increased by 0.5 per cent, according to the latest retail sales monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG.

Sales decreased by 0.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with the same month last year, when they had risen by 0.2 per cent.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said: “Scottish retail sales were stuck in a holding pattern in August.

“That consistent pattern, of rising food sales being offset by declining non-food sales became more pronounced last month, showing customers remain unwilling to commit to expensive purchases at this time. Retailers will therefore be looking forward cautiously to the autumn.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “The latest figures will not provide much welcome news and the long-term outlook for Scotland’s high streets continues to remain challenging.

“Retailers witnessed a decline in total sales value of 0.2 per cent, which is at least an improvement on the three-month average, offering a level of optimism.

“Non-food remains challenging and the overall performance was mitigated by strong food sales and inflationary price rises, suggesting that it’s not a sudden change in consumer behaviour, which is behind some of the improvements experienced.

“For retailers, that should act as a clear sign that now, more than ever, is the time to develop a clear strategy focused on managing immediate cost efficiencies and exploring growth opportunities through new business models or partnerships that may have not been obvious in the past.”