Late Easter distorts sales figures but first three months show Scotland well behind UK performance
MARCH was a poor month for food retailers across Scotland, with sales down on last year and lagging behind the rest of the UK. According to the regular survey carried out by the Scottish Retail Consortium and accountants KPMG, total food sales were 3.5% down on March 2013, when they had increased by 5.2% on the previous year.
However, the recent year-on-year figures alone do not give an accurate picture because Easter was in March in 2013 and in April in 2014 but the overall trend appears to be down. Statistics for the last quarter show Scottish sales falling faster than the rest of the UK, which KPMG suggests could be down to consumer reliance on deals and discounts.
Over the last 12 months, growth in Scotland is in line with the UK, at 1.4%.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “The timing of Easter – April this year, March last year – distorts the sales figures and exaggerates the decline in Scottish sales.
“Total food sales in Scotland for the three months to March fell by 1.2% compared with a decline of 0.6% in the rest of the UK, hinting that the Scottish consumer is being cautious and canny in spending on necessities, and perhaps being more alert to the discounting of the grocers.
“This is clearly a very competitive area of the market and customer loyalty will be tested to the full as the price wars launched by some grocers take effect. The winner here will be the consumer, and possibly other retail categories, should there be extra pennies to spend.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, was encouraged by strong sales in fashion and footwear, possibly encouraged by warmer, more spring-like weather than in 2013.
He said “These results follow a strong start to the year in January but retailers will be looking forward to April’s results to see how this balances out over the period.
“Going further, retailers will be buoyed by the news that household income has finally caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly six years.
“The crucial factor is whether this trend will continue and also translate into higher levels of confidence and more transactions.”