finance

High street sales plunge 40% in worst ever month



Retail sales in Scotland plummeted by more than 40% last month to their lowest on record, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Figures for last month show there was a decrease of 40.3% compared with April 2019 as the coronavirus outbreak forced the closure of non-essential businesses.

It is the lowest level recorded by the monitor since its inception in January 1999.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Retail sales in Scotland collapsed in April, the first full month under lockdown, plummeting to their lowest level in over two decades as a result of the chaos wrought by coronavirus.

“Unsurprisingly, discretionary spending bore the brunt of it, recording its worst-ever performance as most shops were shuttered and shoppers switched their focus to essentials.

“The spike in online purchases failed to staunch much of the sharp drop. The decline affected all parts of retail, with even grocery waning as households whittled down stockpiled food and with Easter failing to muster much cheer.

“Retailers are working hard to ready themselves to reopen safely, and to play their part in getting Scotland’s economy moving again, once they are permitted to do so by government.”

Total non-food sales fell by 71.4% in April compared with the same month last year, when they had decreased by 3.8%.

This was the worst recorded by the monitor and is below the three-month and 12-month average declines of 36.1% and 11.2% respectively.

Adjusted for the estimated effect of online purchases, non-food sales decreased by 54.3% in April versus April 2019, when they had dropped by 2.3%.

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Food sales decreased by 2.4% compared with April 2019, when they had increased by 1.7%.

This is below the three-month and year-long average growths of 4.8% and 2.6% respectively. The quarterly and 12-month averages remained above the UK’s levels of 4.5% and 1.6%.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail for KPMG, said: “As Scotland now approaches two months of full lockdown, it’s no surprise that the country’s retailers are facing their biggest sales declines since records began.

“With total sales decreased by more than 40% compared with April last year, it’s impossible to downplay the scale of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on one of the country’s most important sectors.

“With food sales also down slightly and online retail failing to make up the lost ground, it’s clear that the industry has a monumental challenge ahead.”



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