Retail figures in Scotland remain below pre-pandemic levels, new figures indicate.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG retail sales monitor for July shows despite a rise of 7.4% on July 2020, total retail sales were down 4.4% compared to July 2019.
The figure for July 2021 is well below the three-month average growth of 35.9% that was boosted by the comparison to lacklustre lockdown-hit sales for the same period in 2020, and also under the 12-month average increase of 8.4%.
Level 0 of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus restrictions applied across Scotland from July 19, meaning a reduction in physical distancing and enabling people to meet in larger groups.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, SRC head of policy and external affairs said: “July saw retail sales improve on 2020’s rather desperate performance which came in the immediate aftermath of the first lockdown, but remain below pre-pandemic trading.
“Indeed, the 4.4% fall compared to 2019 was disappointing after two months when there seemed to be a path back to growth. It seems Scottish retailers have a longer wait in store.
“Food sales continue to perform well, driven last month by strong sales of drinks and outdoor food as Scots took advantage of the sunshine.
“Non-food sales remain mixed, there was good news for fashion retailers as shoppers looked to update wardrobes for the weather, but furniture and homeware sales dipped compared to the very strong sales last year.”
He raised concerns of tough times ahead ahead for the Scottish retail industry, with rising commodity and haulage costs increasing pressure on retailers.
He said: “If there isn’t an August bump in retail sales from the relaxation of restrictions it may be a long winter for Scottish shops.”
However, Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, was more optimistic for the future of Scotland’s retailers.
He said: “While social distancing measures persisted throughout July, the picture improved again for Scottish retailers as rising footfall, enabled or encouraged by the move to Level 0 restrictions, facilitated a sizeable rise in total sales.
“However if we compare current levels to 2019, sales do still remain low – a clear indicator of the impact the pandemic continues to have on retailing operations.
“Despite the difference against pre-pandemic levels, retail performance in July was encouraging, especially the steep rise in non-food sales.
“Hopefully we’ll see this positive momentum continue throughout the summer as the majority of remaining restrictions are eased, retailers resume normal trading and consumers feel confident to spend once again.”