Scottish sales figures best for six months amid 'tentative signs' of high street recovery

January saw the best Scottish sales figures in six months amid “tentative signs of a recovery” on the high street and a push back towards pre-pandemic levels.

New industry figures, released today, show that total sales north of the Border fell by 7.9 per cent last month compared with two years ago, in January 2020.

The January performance is an improvement of 5.1 percentage points from December 2021 and is the lowest two-year decline recorded since July last year, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which produces the monthly sales monitor together with KPMG.

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A breakdown of the latest data showed that total food sales increased 3.3 per cent last month versus January 2020, while total non-food sales fell by 17.3 per cent, on the same two-year comparison.

Despite the robust sales figures, experts have pointed to 'immense headwinds' battering stores right now, with high inflation, rising public policy costs and stretched household finances all making trading difficult. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy at the SRC, said: “January saw the best Scottish sales figures in six months as shops kicked off 2022 with tentative signs of a recovery.

“Whilst these figures are littered with caveats - the value of sales remain nearly 8 per cent below pre-pandemic figures and are bolstered by inflation - it’s nonetheless welcome to see an improving performance after a dreadful end to 2021.

“It’s too early to tell if this is the start of a shopping revival in Scotland, but these figures will provide a little respite for a shattered retail industry.

“Nonetheless, there are immense headwinds battering stores right now, with high inflation, rising public policy costs and stretched household finances all making trading difficult.”

Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “An encouraging start to the year is welcome news, but with inflation impacting both consumers and retailers, the months ahead will require a balanced approach to drive growth.

“There are clear signs we’re edging closer to traditional trading patterns and sales falling back into line with pre-pandemic levels.

“Normally a quiet trading month, January’s strong performance was fuelled by non-food sales, with notable performers including formal office wear, mirroring the return to the office for many.”

Sales declined by 3 per cent last month on a like-for-like basis compared with January 2020.

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