Scotland’s shops are desperately hoping for an Easter sales bump after a further slowdown in activity last month.
The latest Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) – KPMG retail sales monitor shows a 2.1% fall in total sales north of the border last month, continuing the run of negative num bers in 2017.
Over the quarter, total sales were 2.5% lower than the year previous, with the bulk of the decline due to a downturn in the non-food sector.
The performance was significantly poorer than seen across the UK as a whole, where total sales were 0.2% lower in March and 0.1% higher over the three month average.
Data for the full calendar year show a 1.5% fall in total sales in Scotland, while the UK saw a 0.8% uplift.
SRC director David Lonsdale said the figures for March were distorted due to the later timing of this year’s Easter holiday
“March saw a real-terms fall in retail sales of 1.3 percent, which is in line with the somewhat disappointing sales performance we’ve seen in 2017,” Mr Lonsdale said.
“However, these figures are heavily distorted as Easter falls in April this year.
“One trend is clear though.
“Despite retailers’ efforts to absorb costs, the impact of the fall in sterling on commodity prices is now clearly being seen through food price inflation.
“That’s contributed to improved food sales of 1.8 percent.
“However, the concern is that consumers spending more on food are shifting spending from other items; potentially exacerbating the stresses affecting non-food retailers.”
Adjusted for the estimated impact of online sales, total non-food orders fell by 4.1% compared with March 2016, when they rose by 1.2%.
On a quarterly basis, online adjusted total non-food sales were 2.9% lower than in the first three months of 2016.
Craig Cavin, KPMG’s head of retail in Scotland, said hard-pressed Scottish retailers were now pinning their hopes on a strong April showing to help reverese the declining trend.
“A 5.2 per cent year-on-year fall in total non-food sales appears drastic, but again the late Easter has taken its toll.
“The Easter weekend will provide bargains on big-ticket items such as furniture and white goods, and a boost for children’s clothing during the school holidays should bolster April stats.
“Looking forward, we can expect a sunnier April outlook, and retailers will be hoping consumers reach for their wallets and purses to take advantage of some of those Easter bargains.
“However, it is unlikely the anticipated Easter pickup will significantly alter the 3-month average trend of -2.5 per cent.”
Online retail entrepreneur Cally Russell – a graduate of Dundee University – this week warned of the potential calamitous impact of heavy discounting of goods on high street retailers prospects after fashion chain Jaeger’s collapse.