Scottish retailers have 'longer wait in store' as summer sales rebound cools

Scotland’s retailers are still waiting for a return to pre-pandemic trading levels after the summer bounceback cooled last month, figures today reveal.

Shoppers pictured on Edinburgh's famous Princes Street. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Total sales north of the Border jumped 7.4 per cent last month compared with July 2020, when they had decreased by 8.3 per cent year-on-year.

However, on a two-year basis, total retail sales continued to perform below pre-pandemic levels, with sales down 4.4 per cent compared with July 2019, according to the latest sales monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG.

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Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said: “July saw retail sales improve on 2020’s rather desperate performance which came in the immediate aftermath of the first lockdown, but remain below pre-pandemic trading.

“Indeed, the 4.4 per cent fall compared to 2019 was disappointing after two months when there seemed to be a path back to growth. It seems Scottish retailers have a longer wait in store.”

The latest figures show that total food sales increased 1.8 per cent compared with July last year. Total non-food sales grew by 12.1 per cent, though this was below both the three-month and 12-month average growth numbers.

Adjusted for the estimated effect of online business, total non-food sales rose by 11.7 per cent in July versus a year earlier.

MacDonald-Russell added: “With parts of the supply chains under pressure from rising commodity and haulage costs the stresses on operational models are only increasing. If there isn’t an August bump in retail sales from the relaxation of restrictions it may be a long winter for Scottish shops.”

Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “While social distancing measures persisted throughout July, the picture improved again for Scottish retailers as rising footfall, enabled or encouraged by the move to level zero restrictions, facilitated a sizeable rise in total sales.

“However if we compare current levels to 2019, sales do still remain low – a clear indicator of the impact the pandemic continues to have on retailing operations.

“Hopefully we’ll see the positive momentum continue throughout the summer as the majority of remaining restrictions are eased.”

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