Scotland business

Scottish Retail Consortium: October figures 'disappointing'

shopping bags Image copyright Thinkstock

High street stores had a disappointing October, according to figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

While total sales across the UK were up by 0.9% on the previous year, figures for Scotland showed a drop of 2.4%.

Like-for-like-sales, which strip out factors such as new store openings, were 2.8% lower, reported the SRC/KPMG Scottish Retails Sales Monitor.

Mild autumn weather may have depressed clothing sales, while electrical goods shoppers may be waiting for sales.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said the figures were "a sobering reminder of the frailty of the economic recovery".

'Vital few weeks'

He added: "There is no doubt the declines in Scottish retail sales in October, when measured against a relatively weak month last year, are disappointing for retailers when set against mainly dry weather and temperatures only marginally warmer than average."

Mr McCorquodale said the weather "wasn't cold enough" for sales of coats or boots to do well, adding that with shoppers "perhaps waiting for heavy promotions, retailers were left pushing themed products for Halloween".

He said the next few weeks would be vital for retailers with the tactics around Black Friday and the run-up to Christmas beginning to unfold.

Analysis by Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland business and economy editor

Sluggish, disappointing and rather pallid: three ways of describing Scotland's latest retail figures. And they were from the retail industry people trying to look on the bright side.

With inflation just into negative territory - that is, consumer prices have dropped over the past year - it's not a disaster for retailers to have flat takings.

But with recovery under way, and average earnings growth now clearly above inflation, the nation's shopkeepers might hope for something that looks more like growth.

Read more from Douglas here.

Total food sales were down by 3.2% when compared to October 2014, with stores unable to fully benefit from the Rugby World Cup after Scotland went out of the tournament.

With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, some Scots opted for guising rather than shopping, the SRC suggested.

While Scotland enjoyed the driest and sunniest October since 2003, sales of autumn and winter clothing were hampered, although Halloween fancy dress costumes were reported to have sold well.

Online discounting

Shoppers also held back from buying electrical products in anticipation of discounts in the Black Friday sales at the end of this month and total non-food sales for October were down by 1.8% on last year.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: "This rather pallid set of results paints a disappointing October overall for Scotland's retailers, with total retail sales edging down again once falling shop prices are taken into account.

"It could be that shoppers are simply holding out for even better deals in the run-up to Christmas, perhaps with an eye towards potential online discounting at the end of this month, despite the fact that shop prices are already at record lows.

"With the spotlight on the Autumn Statement and the Scottish Budget over the next few weeks, retailers will be hoping for measures which put money in peoples' pockets and which encourage them to invest and grow."

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