Retail sales slump in May

Woman shopping

Scottish sales in May decreased by 19.2% on a like-for-like basis compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 4.1%*. This is above the three-month average decrease of 21.4% but below the 12-month average decrease of 6.30%.

The SRC-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor for May 2020 also found that:

  • Total sales in Scotland decreased by 27.6% compared with May 2019, when they had decreased by 3.8%*. This is the second lowest recorded by this monitor since its inception in January 1999 but an improvement over April. This is below the 3m and 12m average declines of 25.9% and 6.8% respectively. Adjusted for deflation, the decrease was 25.2%.
  • Total Food sales increased 3.6% versus May 2019, when they had increased by 0.2%*. This is below the three-month average growth of 5.0% but above the 12-month average growth of 2.9%. The three-month average slipped below the UK level of 5.6%, while the 12-month average remained above the UK’s levels of 2.1%.
  • Total Non-Food sales decreased by 53.2% in May compared to May 2019, when they had decreased by 7.0%*. This was broadly in line with the three-month average decline of 51.3% but below the 12-month average decline of 14.7%.
  • Adjusted for the estimated effect of Online sales, Total Non-Food sales decreased by 33.0% in May versus May 2019, when they had decreased by 6.4%*. This is above the three-month average decline of 37.6% but below the 12-month average decline of 10.6%. Those are lower than the UK’s 3m and 12m Total average declines of 21.8% and 6.4% respectively.

Ewan MacDonald Russell, Head of Policy & External Affairs for the Scottish Retail Consortium, commented: “Retail sales slumped by a quarter in May as the continued impact of the Covid-19 crisis ratcheted up the pressure on high streets. While the figures were an improvement on April’s record low, restrictions on trading are bringing many retailers to the brink.

“Food sales finally returned to growth, although the 3.6 percent rise is unimpressive considering the continued closure of restaurants, pubs, catering and most food to go outlets. Grocery retailers report basket spend is higher than pre-crisis with consumers balancing a larger regular shop with top-ups from local convenience format stores. Retailers still have to manage very significant cost increases from enforcing physical distancing, colleague and customer protection, and increased online deliveries.”


* 2020 is a 53-week year in the ONS calendar: as a result of the extra week in January 2020, the comparable 2019 performances cited here may differ from those published last year, due to the one-week shift in the comparison.

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