Scottish retail sales: Next few weeks 'critical to survival' after November spending rebound
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Industry leaders said the November rebound gave retailers a “smidgen of hope” as the final countdown to Christmas begins. Publishing its latest sales monitor, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said total sales in Scotland nudged up 0.6 per cent last month, compared with November 2021, and when adjusted for the effects of inflation. The headline rise came in at 8 per cent, fuelled by soaring food prices. Non-food takings were boosted last month by sales of colder-weather clothing as winter started to bite, and early Christmas gifting, the SRC noted.
Ewan MacDonald Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “There was a small but welcome boost to Scottish retail sales in November as shoppers took advantage of discounts to belatedly begin their Christmas shopping. Sales rose by 0.6 per cent in real terms as consumers took advantage of the plethora of deals around Black Friday. Food sales hit a record high of 12.5 per cent, an inevitable consequence of record food price inflation.
“In contrast to last year when Christmas shopping happened earlier, it appears consumers were waiting for November promotions and discounting to galvanise them into shops. These figures will give retailers a smidgen of hope as we enter December’s make-or-break trade. However, that optimism is heavily tempered by the reality that household incomes remain significantly squeezed under the pressure of rising food and energy bills.”
The latest figures showed that total food sales surged 12.5 per cent compared with November 2021, when they had slipped back 2.2 per cent. November was above the three-month average growth rate of 10.9 per cent as inflation continued to feed through. Total non-food sales increased by 4.2 per cent last month compared with November 2021. Adjusted for the estimated impact of online sales, total non-food sales were up by 4 per cent, year on year.
Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, which helps to produce the monthly sales monitor, said: “November sales growth may have been marginal, nevertheless things have moved in the right direction for Scottish retailers. Black Friday bargains gave a much needed boost to retailers on the high street and online, who will be hoping that consumers who can afford to do so, continue to spend money on gifts and food this Christmas. For some struggling retailers already hit hard as consumer confidence and spending declines, and costs continue to rise, the next few weeks could be critical to their survival. Retailers are well aware that in the current environment it is a battle to attract and retain every customer.”
MacDonald Russell added: “Retailers will look with great interest at the Scottish budget tomorrow, hoping at the very least the government follows the approach in England and Wales and freezes the business rate.”
Measured on a like-for-like basis, which strips out changes in selling space, overall sales increased by 5.5 per cent last month compared with November 2021.