Scottish retail figures lagging behind UK

The Scottish retail recovery is lagging behind that of the rest of the UK. Picture: Jane Barlow
The Scottish retail recovery is lagging behind that of the rest of the UK. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SCOTLAND’S high street revival is lagging behind the the rest of the UK, new figures released yesterday show.

Shops north of the Border had “slow but steady” sales in May, with an increase of 0.8 per cent compared with the same period last year. However, across the UK, retail sales were up by 3.4 per cent.

Stores now face a “fierce battle” over the summer months to persuade consumers to part with their cash, it warned.

Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) showed growth last month was above the 12-month average of 0.3 per cent, while like-for-like sales, which do not account for factors such as new store openings, were down 0.5 per cent. The SRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures monthly changes in the value of retail sales apart from fuel.

The figures come on the back of a stark report last month, which warned that almost one in four stores on Scotland’s high streets will disappear in the coming years, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. The report also said that the problem was more acute in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

Head of retail at KPMG, David McCorquodale, said: “With the weather remaining mixed, the cold truth is Scottish sales are trailing behind the UK’s, which this month saw a healthy 3.4 per cent boost to sales.

“Total food sales grew by less than inflation and non-food sales growth was a mere 0.2 per cent, driven by electricals.

“Yes, spending is up, but only just, and it remains an uphill struggle for retailers who are fighting over every pound that enters the tills.”

The latest figures show that clothing and footwear performed the worst in the coldest May recorded since 1996 while food sales showed a steady increase of 1.5 per cent.

Non-food or fashion items such as electricals posted their strongest result in 20 months, excluding Christmas. Touch-screen tablets, large white goods and small household appliances sold particularly well.

Mr McCorquodale added: “This battle for their share of consumer wallets will remain fierce, and retailers must keep a watchful eye on their own margins as they try every form of promotional activity to secure sales.

“Perhaps a few weeks of summer weather will make a difference, but I believe the majority of retailers face a hard-fought campaign to persuade consumers to part with their hard-earned cash.”

A report by the Retail Futures 2018 report by the Centre for Retail Research last month warned that the flatlining economy and the explosion of online shopping will result in the loss of 5,800 Scottish shops by 2018. The decline in Scotland is more acute than across Britain as a whole, as hard-up shoppers tighten their purse-strings.

The SRC said that overall, the figures suggested rising levels of consumer confidence.

Director Fiona Moriarty said: “Customers remain price- conscious, but the signs are that they entered May a little more willing to spend, especially on value ranges.

“While May ushered in some welcome weather, more suited to spring after the unseasonably chilly preceding months, conditions were still volatile.

“This led to a mixed month for the fashion category – the first signs of sunshine fuelled demand for spring and summer ranges, but changes in temperature made for stop-start progress across the month.

“These are slow but steady figures, which will prompt mixed feelings from Scottish retailers. While the gap has widened again with the UK, the result is up on the 12-month average of 0.3 per cent.

“Retailers will be hoping that this tentative boost gathers momentum as we head into the summer.”