SRC & KPMG: September sales sound alarm bells for retail

Total retail sales in September continue to perform below pre-pandemic levels, with sales down 9.1% compared with September 2019, according to the latest Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor.

SRC & KPMG: September sales sound alarm bells for retail

Total retail sales in Scotland increased by 1.3% compared with September 2020, when they had decreased by 6.0%. This was below the 3m average growth of 3.8% and below the 12-month average of 10.0%.

Scottish sales increased by 1.1% on a Like-for-Like basis compared with September 2020, when they had decreased by 6.3%. This is below the 3-month average increase of 3.3% and the 12-month average of 8.7%.

Total Food sales increased 0.4% versus September 2020, when they had increased by 3.7%. September was below the 3-month growth of 0.9% and the 12-month average growth of 1.9%. The 3-month average was below the UK level of 2.3%.

Total Non-Food sales increased by 2.1% in September compared with September 2020, when they had decreased by 14.2%. This was below the 3-month average growth of 6.2% and the 12-month average growth of 16.7%.

Adjusted for the estimated effect of Online sales, Total Non-Food sales declined by 1.7% in September versus the same month last year, when they had decreased by 2.2%. This is below the 3-month average growth of 3.9% and the 12-month average growth of 27.7%. This was below the UK’s 3m average growth of 3.8%.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy & external affairs, SRC, said: “September’s slow sales figures ended retailers hopes of a post-restrictions bounce with the weakest figures since March. Scottish sales only crept above last years terrible figures and were a whopping 9.1 percent down on pre-pandemic trading. The alarm bells are ringing louder than the tills for Scotland’s shops as we move into the crucial Christmas trading period.

“Food sales were a bright spot amidst the gloom, continuing to grow as customers continue to spend more at home, albeit the growth is slightly exaggerated as food inflation returns. Whilst non-food sales remain weak, there are signs customers are shifting spending from home purchases to clothing and footwear as more people start going out or even returning part-time to workplaces.

“Nonetheless there is much retailers need to be concerned about. Already shaky consumer confidence has been further hit by worries around rising energy prices, fuel shortages, and the ongoing economic uncertainty. With both the Chancellor and Finance Secretary set to produce Budgets in the coming months the priority must be to take steps to alleviate consumer concerns whilst recognising businesses are unlikely to be able to shoulder additional burdens in the immediate future. There are no shortage of storm clouds worrying retailers, government needs to help the industry through this time rather than exacerbating the situation.”

Paul Martin, partner, UK head of retail, KPMG, added: “While total sales in Scotland continue to grow, they are at their lowest rate of growth since March 2021 when Scotland was under substantial restrictions, signifying a slowdown in consumer activity ahead of the Christmas rush.

“September was dominated by widespread consumer concern over supply chain and labour issues, energy prices and fuel shortages which may also have contributed to a slower month in activity. The month’s total sales were significantly below the three and 12-month averages, and some way short of returning to pre-pandemic levels, down by 9.1% compared with September 2019.

“September saw the weakest year-on-year growth recorded since May for food sales although there was a shift towards food-on-the-go products as more people returned to the office.

“As we approach the crucial Christmas shopping period, retailers continue to face staffing pressures and supply chain issues, with challenges getting product into the UK and goods into customers’ hands. This may feed into limited availability of certain products and the spectre of price rises remains as retailers pull out all the stops for Christmas.

“Consumers across Scotland are expected to start shopping earlier to bag those items already being reported as potentially out of stock by December, and successful retailers will have to work very hard to ensure the right availability of the right product at the right price to satisfy the requirements of an ever more demanding customer ready to spend.”

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