finance

May sees best retail sales figures in 15 months



Total retail sales in Scotland decreased by 3.6% on a two-year basis compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 3.1%.

The latest KPMG and Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) figures also showed that total food sales increased 2.5% versus May 2019, when they had increased by 0.5%.

Total non-food sales decreased by 8.7% in May compared to 2019, when they had decreased by 6.1%.

Adjusted for the estimated effect of online sales, total non-food sales decreased by 12.1% versus May 2019, when they had decreased by 5.6%.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said that retailers continue to benefit from the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, with May showing the best retail sales figures in 15 months.

“However, despite evidence of pent up demand coming through sales still failed to break into positive territory, remaining below the comparable May 2019 figures.

“Food sales remain in growth, albeit slightly reduced as eateries reopen,” he continued, adding: “Online sales fell back with customers returning to stores, but there wasn’t enough of a high street boost to push the figures into positive territory.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, commented: “The overall conditions for Scottish retailers are still in a state of flux.

“We won’t get a clear indication of how shopping preferences have been impacted by the pandemic until lockdown restrictions have been fully lifted – for now, prudent retailers will need to focus on cost and efficiency whilst focussing on their omni-channel future.”

Separately, the SRC criticised the Scottish Government’s launch of a consultation on introducing a permanent ban on shops from trading on New Year’s Day.

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The existing Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 currently prohibits shops operating from premises over 280 square metres in size from opening to customers on Christmas Day in Scotland.

However, the provision applying to New Year’s Day was never brought into force.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “The majority of Scotland’s stores have been compelled to close for at least 220 days during the past 15 months – against this backdrop, it’s frankly absurd that Scottish Ministers could even countenance the introduction of a fresh legislative ban to stop shops from trading.

“Where there is demand from customers and availability of staff then shops – like other sectors – ought to be free to choose to open on New Year’s Day if they so wish.

“It is also odd that shops are being singled out, while other consumer-facing businesses such as hotels, restaurants, pubs, petrol stations and cinemas can carry on.”

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