Nov 18, 2020
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Scots store closures a "hammer blow" after weak October trading

Nov 18, 2020

A new three-week lockdown in parts of Scotland is “a hammer blow to hard-pressed retailers” in the run-up to Christmas, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

Savills/Fred Perry

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has placed 11 local council areas under strict level 4 governance — the highest level possible. This means non-essential stores in these areas will shutter for three weeks from 6pm Friday, coming during the the essential run up to Christmas, denying them essential trading hours. The 11 regions cover most parts of heavily populated west and central Scotland.

The SRC estimates the new localised lockdown measures will affect more than 45% of non-essential stores, equating to £90 million per week in lost revenue in the period of shutdown.

The new lockdown comes as a further blow to Scottish retail as latest figures showed the rate of decline in retail sales value accelerated again in October. The SRC’s latest monthly figures show retail sales last month were was down 8.5% on the same month of last year.

SRC director David Lonsdale told Insider.co.uk: “Many Scottish shops face a bitter winter following this deeply disappointing announcement on store closures. There is little evidence shuttering shops does much to suppress the spread of Covid, but it’s undeniable closing high street stores in November and into December during the critical Christmas trading period is a hammer-blow to hard-pressed retailers.

“This is the worst possible time to close these stores, who often need a strong end to the year to tide them over the lean winter period”.

The SRC’s latest poor October sales figures followed five consecutive months in which the year-on-year decline in Scottish retail sales value had decelerated.

The year-on-year fall in sales had slowed from 40.3% in April, at the height of lockdown, to 6% by September. The year-on-year decline in the value of non-food sales accelerated from 14.2% in September to 19.3% last month.

Lonsdale said of the figures: “The recent gradual improvement in retail sales went into reverse in October, slipping to the weakest performance since the ending of the lockdown in June, as greater Covid restrictions and economic uncertainty exerted a vice-like grip.

“Retail sales in Scotland have still to emerge from the pandemic-induced funk, after eight months, deeply concerning at what is for many stores the start of the all-important festive period”.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, added: “October’s data perfectly reflect the crisis facing Scotland’s high streets”.

However, he added: “With non-food sales down by more than 19% and total year-on-year sales down…retailers are facing a daily fight for survival”.

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