Dire warning of 'final straw' for some retailers as Scottish sales suffer fresh fall

Scottish retail industry leaders have warned that stricter lockdowns could be the “final straw for some retailers” after a further fall in sales.

By Scott Reid
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 7:14 am
An almost empty Buchanan Street in the centre of Glasgow as people observe the spring lockdown. Picture: John Devlin
An almost empty Buchanan Street in the centre of Glasgow as people observe the spring lockdown. Picture: John Devlin

Total sales in Scotland decreased by 8.5 per cent last month compared with October 2019, according to the latest monthly monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG.

While total food sales were up 4.4 per cent, year-on-year, overall non-food sales plunged 19.3 per cent – continuing the recent twin-track pattern on the high street.

The latest figures cover the four weeks from 4 to 31 October.

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The SRC said October marked the weakest performance since the ending of the initial lockdown period in June, as greater Covid restrictions and economic uncertainty exerted a “vice-like grip”.

David Lonsdale, director at the SRC, said: “Retail sales in Scotland have still to emerge from the pandemic-induced funk, after eight months, deeply concerning at what is for many stores the start of the all-important festive period.

“Convenience store and other grocery sales fared well, temporarily buoyed as restrictions on eating out became more prevalent.

“With many office workers advised to stay home, sales of electronics, household goods and home office products remained high. There were even some signs of early festive shopping, particularly for Christmas decorations and gifting.

“However, store-based sales in other non-food categories wilted further, down by a fifth on the same period last year. Beauty and fashion categories fared especially poorly.”

He added: “Businesses which were perfectly healthy at the start of the year are now struggling with circumstances beyond their control, and the fight for survival couldn’t be more intense for some.

“Further forced store closures due to any local lockdowns during the coming weeks could be the final straw for some retailers.”

Scottish sales fell by 6.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis last month, compared with October 2019, when they had dipped by just 0.8 per cent.

Paul Martin, partner, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “We’re just a week away from Black Friday and in the middle of the so-called ‘Golden Quarter’, when the sector typically witnesses its biggest gains.

“This winter, to simply survive, retailers will have to double down on innovative strategies.”

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