Retail sales in Scotland slump to 21-month low

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Retailers face a “nerve-racking” run-up to the festive season after November sales were the worst for 21 months, according to a new report.

Total sales in Scotland last month decreased 1.6% compared with November 2017, when they fell 0.6%, the SRC-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor showed.

This is the deepest decline since February 2017, excluding Easter distortions, and below both the three-month and 12-month averages of -0.2% and 0.5% respectively, the report said.

Adjusted for inflation, measured at 0.1% by the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, November sales decreased 1.7%.

Meanwhile, like-for-like sales dropped 2.1% compared to November 2017, when they fell 1.3%. This is below the three-month average of -0.9%.

2016 Cheltenham Festival – Ladies Day – Cheltenham Racecourse
It was a bad month for sales of clothing (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Grocery sales grew but at a less pronounced pace than witnessed during the summer and early autumn.

“The gulf between food and non-food categories became starker, with the latter sinking markedly – to a 20-year low – despite Black Friday discounting and the proximity to Christmas.

“Food, gaming, mobile phone and associated accessories fared reasonably well, however, toys, beauty products, clothing, footwear and smaller domestic appliances struggled.

“Retailers now face a nerve-racking few weeks leading up to the crucial festive season, after what has been a bruising year for many.”

The report found total food sales in November increased 2.8% compared to November 2017, when they had jumped 4.2%.

This is below both the three-month average of 3.0% and the 12-month average of 3.9%.

Total non-food sales decreased 5% in November compared to November 2017, when they fell 4.4%.

This is worse than the three-month and 12-month averages of -2.7% and -2.2% respectively.

Adjusted for the estimated effect of Online sales, total non-food sales decreased 4.1% in November versus November 2017, when they dropped 2.6%.

The figures cover the four weeks from October 28 to November 24.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “Black Friday sales were disappointing, with total sales in Scotland falling 2.1% on a like-for-like basis compared to November last year.

“As we’ve come to expect, online shopping took precedence over the high street, with consumers preferring to browse and purchase items from the comfort of their homes.”

He added: “Although these figures don’t take into account the full Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, it’s clear to see heavy discounting isn’t as successful as it once was in attracting customers to the high street.

“Against a backdrop of deep discounting, sales growth and profitability don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand and retailers will need to keep a tight focus on margins over the Christmas season.”

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