Scottish retail sales 'in a funk' despite post-lockdown rush for new clothing and footwear

Scottish retail sales “remained in a funk” last month, falling by a sixth on the comparable pre-pandemic trading period, despite a post-lockdown rush for new clothing and footwear.

Total sales fell by 15.6 per cent last month compared with April 2019, when they had increased by 4.4 per cent, according to the latest sales monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG

The move to a two-year comparison from a year-on-year one has been made to provide a more meaningful picture of trading given the rollercoaster ride of Covid lockdowns and restrictions suffered during the bulk of 2020.

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On a two-year basis, total food sales were down 7.2 per cent last month, but it was the non-food sector that, once again, suffered the biggest blow, with total sales tumbling 22.7 per cent in April.

An almost empty Buchanan Street in the centre of Glasgow as people observe the spring 2020 lockdown. Non-essential stores were forced to close for months at the end of last year, hammering trade, but industry leaders had been hoping for a lift from April 26. Picture: John Devlin

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Scottish retail sales remained in a funk last month. While the re-opening of non-essential stores and associated pent up demand in the final week of April provided a much-needed fillip, especially for fashion retailers, it couldn’t make up for the rest of the month.

“Scotland lagged well behind the UK as a whole, unsurprising after shops here missed out on an extra fortnight of trading compared to counterparts in Wales and England.

“Clothing and footwear were the biggest beneficiaries of the reopening of stores after lockdown – as people were able to get out and visit their favourite shops, see items in person, and improve their wardrobes for the return of indoor and outdoor socialising in restaurants and pubs.”

He added: “Whilst the reopening of stores rounded off an encouraging end to the month, the prospects for the immediate future remain uncertain.”

Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “We can expect the Scottish high street’s performance to improve in the months ahead.

“Lockdown ended late in April, during a spate of unseasonably cold weather, but consumers still took advantage of shops reopening and pushed clothing sales closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“Online sales dipped as people waited for the opportunity to shop in person again, but it’s too early to see how Covid-19 will affect preferences long term.”

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