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Scottish sales drop as government attacks retailers

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Scottish retail sales stagnated in November even before the weather disruptions which yesterday caused the Scottish government to criticise retailers.

Like-for-like (LFL) sales saw flat growth year-on-year in November, according to the latest Scottish Retail Sales Monitor released by KPMG and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) today.

National sales have shown an increase in only two months of 2010, and things are likely to get worse as trade in December has been severely disrupted by heavy snowfall.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the SRC, commented: “We’ll see the full impact of the weather disruption in next month’s figures but it has dramatically undermined trade in the last few weeks.

“Retailers will be hoping those sales are made up over the next ten days and not lost entirely.”

Several retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have suspended home delivery services to Scotland and others such as Amazon and Boots deliveries are experiencing severe delays.

In a surprising attack yesterday, the Scottish government seemed to want to deflect criticism away from road clearing and onto the retailers for deciding to cancel services just before Christmas.

Scotland’s Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This is an unreasonable response to the weather situation and we are pressing retailers to explain the withdrawal of these services from Scotland, and ask that they come forward with solutions so that the backlog is cleared as quickly as possible.”

David McLetchie, Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, responded to the SNP member’s criticism by saying: “It’s not the responsibility of Amazon to keep the roads clear, it’s the responsibility of the Scottish government.”

The arguments will do nothing to help a struggling sector, which is suffering from lower consumer confidence and lower sales growth than the rest of the UK.

Total sales for November increased 3.4 per cent year-on-year north of the border, with upward pressure coming mainly from food sales which grew 6.5 per cent in the month.

Non-food sales declined 2.3 per cent on a LFL basis and increased just 0.4 per cent in total, with the now hard to imagine mild weather during the month delaying winter clothes purchases.

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail in Scotland at KPMG, said: “The flat like-for-like sales for November may appear like welcome news to retailers after two months of negative comparatives. However, on closer analysis the statistics are not so encouraging.

“Firstly, these are in comparison to November 2009, one of the wettest Novembers on record.

“Secondly, the increase of 2.4 per cent in like-for-likes in food sales is principally driven by inflation in pricing which has crept in over recent months.”

Predictions for December’s Sales Monitor look bleak, with retail footfall seeing a dramatic decline at the beginning of the month and delivery disruption making its impact now.

McCorquodale added: “With the build-up to Christmas already slower than last year, the snow that arrived in the last weekend of November brought the country to a shuddering halt for around ten days.

“With many consumers residing in the central belt unable to get to their shops, this year’s Christmas shopping will be squeezed into two weeks.”

Published on Wednesday 15 December by Editorial Assistant

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