Sunshine warms high street sales, but big picture is still '˜fragile'

Better weather gave Scottish retailers a lift last month to rebound from a poor April sales performance, but the high street is still struggling to achieve sustained growth, according to a new survey out today.

Fashion, outdoor living and health and beauty sectors all received boost. Picture: John Devlin

The figures showed the fashion, outdoor living and health and beauty sectors all received a boost from May’s warmer weather, and grocery retailers also did better.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)–KPMG retail sales monitor found that total Scottish sales decreased 0.3 per cent last month compared with May 2015.

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That compared with a 3.2 per cent year-on-year sales slide in April. A similar contrast was found in same-floorspace sales, with a 0.6 per cent dip in May much better than the 3.3 per cent like-for-like slump year over year in April.

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, commented: “These figures are a welcome improvement on April’s rather poor results.

“However, despite one month’s positive data the retail market in Scotland continues to struggle to show sustained growth.”

Lonsdale added: “Grocery sales continue to be weak, posting a real terms fall once food price deflation is accounted for. The three-month average for food sales continues to be negative, highlighting how challenging the food retail market is.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Rays of sunshine boosted Scottish sales in May, lifting 12- month averages across the board and providing some long-sought relief for retailers.

“Outdoor Living and Health and Beauty performed well as consumers sought to soak up the rays outside.

“Fashion also had a better month as the weather provided the impetus to purchase, and promotional activity helped convert the sales.”

May’s performance was the most resilient performance from the Scottish high street since December, driving up the 12-month average to -1.7 per cent from -2 per cent in April.

Total food sales fell 0.7 per cent year-on-year in May, while non-food sales held virtually steady, with a drop of 0.1 per cent.

Lonsdale at the SRC said the figures showed the “fragile reality” of the Scottish retail market.