Shoppers tightened their purse strings last month as economic pressures and Brexit uncertainty led to a “dreich” February for Scottish retailers.
The new Scottish Retail Consortium-KPMG sales monitor, released today, shows Scottish like-for-like sales fell by 0.8% last month compared to February last year.
Food sales remained buoyant, with a 2.6% rise, but non-food sales decreased by 2.3% compared to the same period last year.
Scottish Retail Consortium’s head of policy and external affairs Ewan MacDonald Russell said customers were “understandably cautious” to spend.
He said: “It was a dreich February for Scottish retailers as sales fell back a real terms fall of 0.8%.
“That’s below the quarterly and annual trends and shows a pattern of slowing sales as economic pressures cut into consumer spending.
“Our concern is the drumbeat of negative political news is influencing shoppers’ decisions.
“Between Brexit uncertainty and news of further taxes and levies in the Scottish budget accord; consumers are understandably cautious about committing to spending.”
He said politicians coming together to avoid a “disorderly exit” from the EU would be a positive step to help reassure “nervous customers”.
February’s results usually benefit from Valentine’s Day spending, but Paul Martin, UK head of retail for KPMG, noted this was not the case this year.
“Scotland’s high streets were not feeling the love this February, with Valentine’s Day having less of an impact on sales than previous years,” he said.
“While food sales grew slightly – 1% taking into account inflation – this was below the 12-month average.
“Non-food sales fell and while this trend is nothing new, retailers will have to continue treading the fine line between generating sales and keeping costs down.
“Consumer spending has remained relatively resilient until now, but it appears ongoing political and economic uncertainty may be affecting shoppers’ spending habits.”