January sales in Scotland were down almost 8% on pre-pandemic levels, but have shown improvement since the Christmas period.
Total sales in Scotland fell 7.9% from January 2020, when they saw a 1.3% increase.
However, this figure is higher than the three-month average decline of 11.6% and the 12-month average decline of 10.8%.
January’s performance also represents a 5.1% improvement on December last year and is the smallest two-year decline since July 2021, according to the latest report from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).
The research showed Scottish-only sales were down 3.0% on a like-for-like basis from January 2020, when they were down 0.1%, higher than the three-month average drop of 1 .1% and over 12 months. average drop of 8.1%.
Total food sales increased last month by 3.3% compared to the same period of 2020, when they increased by 2.7%.
This figure, however, was still below the three-month average growth of 3.5% and the 12-month average growth of 4.3%.
And total non-food sales, including kidswear, men’s smartwear and furniture, fell 17.3% in January from the same month in 2020, when they rose 0.2%. .
This figure was higher than the three-month average decline of 24.2% and the 12-month average decline of 23.5%.
The report adds that with the estimated impact of online sales, non-food sales fell 34.0% in January compared to the same month in 2020, when they increased by 1.1%.
Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy at the SRC, said it was “too early to say” whether the figures represent the start of a “shopping revival” in Scotland.
The report says that with inflation at historically high levels, some of the sales growth will reflect higher prices rather than increased volumes.
Mr MacDonald-Russell said: “January saw the best Scottish sales figures in six months as stores launched 2022 with tentative signs of recovery.
“While these figures are littered with caveats – sales value remains nearly 8% below pre-pandemic figures and is supported by inflation – it is nevertheless welcome to see an improvement in performance after a terrible end of year 2021.
“However, much of this growth comes from rising inflation which grocers are now forced to pass on to customers through higher prices.”
He said a combination of high inflation, rising policy costs and strained household finances were making selling difficult for traders, adding: “Hopefully there will be brighter skies in come, but it looks like it will be someday until we get there.”
Paul Martin, Partner, Head of UK Retail at KPMG, added: “An encouraging start to the year is good news, but with inflation hitting both consumers and retailers, the months to come will require a balanced approach to stimulate growth.
“There are clear signs that we are moving closer to traditional business models and that sales are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“Normally a month of quiet trading, January’s strong performance was driven by non-food sales, with notable performances including formal office wear reflecting the return to the office for many.
“It remains to be seen whether sales will continue to grow and approach the levels we saw before the pandemic.”
He added: “Scottish households will feel the pinch in the months ahead, with rising energy and fuel prices being compounded by inflation which is set to peak in April.
“Retailers are facing their own inflationary pressures and will have to make tough decisions about whether and how to pass on the rising costs they have been sitting on for some time to consumers facing their own financial difficulties.
“We could easily see the health of the sector start to deteriorate if consumers choose to sit on their savings to weather the storm.”
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