Aberdeen's Union Street

SCOTLAND has suffered its worst ever retail sales performance as the industry struggles to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Total sales dropped by 13% last month, compared with March 2019, according to the latest monthly Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC)-KPMG monitor.

It is the weakest performance recorded by the monitor since it was launched in January 1999 – and even adjusted for deflation the decrease sits at 12.2%.

SRC head of policy and external affairs Ewan MacDonald Russell said March was “nothing less than a shocker on Scotland’s high streets”.

He added: “These are truly dismal figures, which expose just how hard retail has been hammered by coronavirus.

“The worst overall retail sales performance ever. The worst non-food sales ever. The worst fashion and footwear sales ever.”

Mr MacDonald Russell said the headline figures masked “a tale of extreme polarisation”.

He added: “The first three weeks of the trading period saw unprecedented levels of grocery shopping, with household staples being stockpiled before sales fell back into negative territory in the last two weeks.

“Across the month, office supplies, toys and games, health and hygiene products, and fridges and freezers all saw stellar growth as customers adapted homes for lockdown.

“Conversely, the bad news was truly rotten.

“Fashion and footwear sales collapsed. Large item sales crumbled as consumer confidence fell sharply.

“Across the board, consumers appear to be reducing spending as they adapt to these new circumstances and economic concerns.

““Retail has gone through the most difficult month in a generation. Many businesses are closed, whilst those who remain trading are doing so in incredibly hard circumstances.”

Sales decreased by 14.5% on a like-for-like basis, compared with March 2019.

Total food sales were up 12.1% year-on-year, while non-food sales slumped by 33.6%.

Paul Martin, KPMG UK head of retail, said:  “Following an already incredibly challenging twelve months for Scotland’s retail sector, it’s impossible to underestimate the impact the Coronavirus pandemic is now having on the industry, with total sales down 13 percent.

“However, the industry is resilient. It’s been through many challenges in the past and it’s now playing a key role in helping to keep the country supplied and fed through a crisis. With the right measures and innovative thinking, Scotland’s retail sector will continue to play a crucial role in the success of the national economy.”