Olympics fail to bring retail boost

Total Scottish retail sales fell by 0.9% in August as the success of Olympics failed to have any knock-on effect. However total food sales grew 2.4% on August 2011, though like-for-like food sales were down 0.3%. The results are worse than expected for a hopeful industry with the Olympic month recording a real terms decline in total sales of 2% after accounting for inflation.

The latest Scottish Retail Sales Monitor said that on the face of it, the monthly performance did not seem as weak as July – a decline of 2.1% – but it built on a particularly low base. Food sales were driven by celebrations during the Olympics: party snacks, crisps but also confectionery and beer to consume in front of the TV. Scotland may have been wetter than usual in August however, consumers made the most of the sunshine when it came with good sales of barbecue food.

Richard Lim, Scottish Retail Consortium Economist, said: “The Olympics were spectacular but didn’t produce the much-needed boost to Scottish retail sales. Sales were down on a year ago and even more than they were in July. Some sectors suffered less than others. Food sales growth was noticeably better in August than in July. The Games helped sales of party food and drink but the hot spell in the middle of the month dampened demand for autumn and winter clothing ranges arriving in stores. On balance, any gains were more than cancelled out by a big year-on-year drop in sales of non-food goods, which compounded another large fall a year earlier.

“It’s clear the Olympics created a feel-good factor but also a major distraction from shopping. People who were watching on TV or following online were not visiting shops or retail websites. With Scottish retailing underperforming the rest of the UK for the 17th month in a row, hopes now rest on money not spent this summer making it to tills in the run-up to Christmas.”

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