Scottish retail sales lag pre-pandemic levels despite increased Valentine’s Day and office returns

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Scottish retail sales lag pre-pandemic levels despite increased Valentine's Day and office returns

Scottish retail sales lag pre-pandemic levels despite increased Valentine’s Day and office returns


Compared with the same month in 2020 two years ago, total sales north of the border fell 6.3% in February, and just before the first lockdown, they were down 0.8%.

Sales in January were down 7.9% compared to the same period in two years.

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David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which produces the monthly sales monitoring report with KPMG, said: “Scotland retail sales rose further in February, partly due to St Valentine’s Day-related Purchases and minor returns to the workplace increased. However, retail sales still lag pre-pandemic comparable periods, underscoring the long-term nature of the retail recovery.

Shoppers take to the streets of Glasgow.Image: Jane Barlow

“The polarization between food and non-food continues. Food and beverage sales continue to perform well, albeit in part driven by higher food prices.

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“However, overall fashion and footwear performance was subdued, hampered by ongoing challenges to timely supply stocks from overseas affecting seasonal ranges.”

Total food sales increased 3.5% compared to 2.9% in February 2020.

On the other hand, total non-food sales fell 14.5% in February compared to two years ago. Adjusted for the estimated impact of online sales, total non-food sales fell 34.1% last month compared to February 2020.

Lonsdale added: “Currently, the industry faces dark clouds and the outlook remains uncertain. Retailers continue to face tough trading conditions due to supply chain challenges and weak demand, and rising inflation across the economy could dampen consumer spirits and propensity to consume.

“This will be exacerbated by rising public policy costs in the coming weeks, particularly the recovery in business interest rates and the hike in employers’ National Insurance contributions from early April.

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“Policymakers can ease the pressure in the coming months by tightly controlling the costs that they control, including taxation and regulation.”

The report noted that larger furniture products sold well last month, often behind deals that offered interest-free financing.

Sales of beauty products and office apparel have been boosted as more people begin returning to the office.

Paul Martin, partner and head of UK retail at Big Four accounting firm KPMG, said: “Retail sales in Scotland remained subdued in February and are still some way off pre-pandemic spending levels.

“The double whammy of rising inflation and supply chain issues continues to impact shoppers and retailers, with many opting to cut back on spending to cope with rising household bills,” he added.

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“Scottish retailers are also facing severe inflationary pressures and they will have to make challenging decisions about how to manage their supply chains, absorb higher costs or pass them on without losing their habit.”

SRC’s sales figures are not adjusted for inflation.

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130 shares, 111 points