Scottish retail sales suffer worst slump since 1999

Shopper outside retail outlet The consortium said further discounting in clearance sales failed to overcome consumer caution

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Scottish retailers have suffered their worst monthly sales performance for more than a decade, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

Total sales in January were 1.5% down on last year - the biggest fall for any month since 1999.

Like-for-like sales - which strip out the effect of changes in floorspace - also saw their worst fall since May.

Food sales picked up by 2.8% but the increase was outweighed by much weaker non-food sales.

These showed the largest year-on-year fall since the survey began in 1999.

SRC said further discounting in clearance sales failed to overcome consumer caution and big-ticket homewares were especially hard hit.

'Confidence low'

As in the UK as a whole, both like-for-like and total sales worsened in January after a better December.

Consumer confidence in Scotland remained lower than the UK-wide figure. By both measures, sales fell more quickly in Scotland than elsewhere.

SRC: Sector performances

  • Food and drink - Like-for-like food sales showed a year-on-year gain for the first time since July.
  • Clothing - After a better December, sales showed a marked year-on-year decline.
  • Footwear - Sales worsened sharply, after an uplift in December.
  • Furniture and floorcoverings - Sales were well down on a year ago for most.
  • Homewares and DIY - Sales fell after a slightly better December.
  • Health and beauty - Toiletries and cosmetics sales slowed after December improvement.

Scottish Retail Consortium director Ian Shearer said the decline in sales had "set alarm bells ringing" for Scottish retailers.

He continued: "Combined, as it is, with some above-inflation cost pressures, there are potentially worrying implications for Scotland's largest private-sector employer.

"The good news is food sales growth picked up after a disappointing December but non-food sales fell dramatically, despite all the discounts and promotions, which themselves hit margins."

Mr Shearer said customers had "confronted reality again" since Christmas.

He added: "Consumer confidence remains low, Scottish household incomes are being squeezed by increased utility and fuel prices, and continued fears over job prospects and the wider economy are front-of-mind for many - deterring purchases which are not immediate needs."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We are taking every possible step to enhance economic and consumer confidence, as well as support business through difficult trading conditions."

The Scottish Conservatives urged the government to drop its plan for a Scotland-only retail tax, which they claimed would cost businesses £95m over the next three years.‪

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