LONDON, 2014-4-23 — /EPR Retail News/ — In March 2014 total Scottish sales decreased by 2.5% compared with March 2013, when they had increased by 1.8%. Like-for-like sales decreased by 3.8% on last March, when they had increased by 0.9%. Taking account of shop price deflation, March total sales were down 0.8% in real terms.
Total Food sales were 3.5% down on March 2013, when they had increased 5.2%. This year’s figure is distorted by the timing of Easter, which will fall in April this year but was in March last year.
Total Non-Food sales decreased by 1.8% on a year earlier when they had decreased by 1.4%. Adjusted more comprehensively for the estimated effect of online sales, total Non-Food sales would have decreased by 0.2%.
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Although these figures show a decline, they are stronger than expected given the fact that Easter will fall so late this year. A particularly strong performance in the fashion and footwear categories shows that shoppers are taking advantage of popular new collections on offer. Scottish retailers are working hard to respond to what customers want in this sector, and it is paying dividends.
“Unsurprisingly compared to last year, categories that perform strongly over the extended Easter break have seen lower sales. Household accessories and furniture are often key purchases over the holiday, and have seen a decline. In line with the rest of the UK, food sales are affected by the intense competition within this category.
“These results follow a strong start to the year in January but retailers will be looking forward to April’s results to see how this balances out over the period. Going further, retailers will be buoyed by the news that household income has finally caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly six years. The crucial factor is whether this trend will continue and also translate into higher levels of confidence and more transactions.”
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “The timing of Easter – April this year, March last year – distorts the sales figures and exaggerates the decline in Scottish sales.
“The weather this year has been kinder and more spring-like compared with the icy blasts of last year, which has meant that clothing and fashion retailers have fared better in the first quarter of 2014 compared with last year. More favourable economic indicators are also helping to gently loosen some purse strings. In the other non-food categories, such as furniture, flooring and household goods, we will have to wait for Easter trading to see if there is a real uptick in these categories but I fear that the Scottish consumer will wish to have harder evidence of house price rises than indicators from the South East of England before big ticket expenditure in Scotland sees a noticeable recovery.
“Total food sales in Scotland for the three months to March fell by 1.2% compared with a decline of 0.6% in the rest of the UK, hinting that the Scottish consumer is being cautious and canny in spending on necessities, and perhaps being more alert to the discounting of the grocers. This is clearly a very competitive area of the market and customer loyalty will be tested to the full as the price wars launched by some grocers take effect. The winner here will be the consumer, and possibly other retail categories, should there be extra pennies to spend.”
British Retail Consortium, 21 Dartmouth Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 9BP. 020 7854 8900. firstname.lastname@example.org.