Analysis: Game of chicken as shoppers hold out for early bargains

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THE figures confirm the trend that we have been seeing in Scotland for the past year or so. Scotland is under-performing the rest of the UK.

Clearly, Scottish consumers have less disposable income and are less prone to spend than those in the prosperous south-east of England. The lack of sales is disappointing, particularly in the non-food category, which is pointing to a very depressed picture linked to the recession and consumers reining in spending.

A couple of key elements will impact on how successful Christmas will be for the retail sector. The first is the timing of Christmas, which this year falls just after a weekend.

This means that consumers may feel that they have an additional weekend to do their shopping.

Perceptually, consumers may feel they have more time this year in the run up to Christmas than they did last year.

Second, there is a game of chicken being played by retailers and consumers, who are on the hunt for bargains and sales. So, consumers are looking for bargains while retailers wish to maintain their margins for as long as they can.

The more difficult economic circumstances in Scotland and the Chancellor’s recent autumn statement suggests that retailers and consumer spending is going to struggle for some time to come.

• Leigh Sparks is professor of retail studies at Stirling University