Comment: Murray Wimbledon victory isn’t all good

Andy Murray might benefit from a Wimbledon victory but Scottish retail sales don't fare so well. Picture: PA
Andy Murray might benefit from a Wimbledon victory but Scottish retail sales don't fare so well. Picture: PA
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IF THE British public holds true to form, sales of food and drink will start rising this week as Andy Murray begins the defence of his SW19 crown, writes Kirsty Dorsey

Wimbledon’s reigning men’s champ is credited for his part in creating a retail spike last summer, when the nation got a collective buzz off the first Brit to win the title in 77 years.

The feel-good factor was enhanced by fine, dry and sunny weather – another element that, for the moment at least, seems to be in force again this year. If Murray progresses deep into the competition, be on the lookout for reports of strong retail figures come August.

Last time around, the Scottish Retail Consortium hailed Murray’s victory as a cause for food-and-drink-laden celebrations. The good vibes spread elsewhere, with better than expected demand for summer clothing, footwear, outdoor furniture and barbecues.

The one major difference this summer is that Wimbledon will be overlapped by the World Cup, which itself is expected to generate an additional £1.3 billion in spending across the UK.

Despite the early exit of England much of the additional spending will pass through tills south of the Border, though the global nature of this sporting carnival means it attracts non-domestic interest and encourages people to watch in communities not represented in the tournament.

Hence the party atmosphere that is generated.

Any boost in spending will be welcome north of the Border, where retailing has failed to follow the more upbeat trend seen elsewhere in the UK.

Last week’s Scottish Retail Sales Monitor painted a picture of cautious consumers who are still hanging on to their cash even though they are increasingly visiting the shops.

The value of total sales in May fell by 1.6 per cent against the same period a year earlier, while like-for-like sales – which strip out the effect of new store openings – were down by 2.7 per cent.

Many Scots clearly remain reticent when it comes to spending, but if a summer of sport does persuade them to shed the shell of prudence, is that a winning result?

Last week’s quarterly commentary from Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute generated a spate of headlines on how London’s housing market could threaten Scotland’s economy. All but lost in the hue and cry was the equally salient point that consumers can’t afford to keep fuelling this recovery.

The ratio of consumer debt to income remains high, and real wages have been falling for several years. In the absence of increased productivity, UK growth has been driven by individuals who are choosing to believe that interest rates will remain forever low.

At 3/1, Murray looks a sensible bet to retain his Wimbledon title, but only a fool would wager that the cost of borrowing will remain in check indefinitely. «