More than 3,500 jobs were shed across UK retailing this year as Britain’s lacklustre economic growth failed to boost shopping, industry figures show.
The figure for job losses is from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), whose director, David Lonsdale, said “anaemic” sales, shop price deflation, rising costs and thin or non-existent profit margins made life difficult for Scottish retailers in 2015.
A post-Christmas hunt for bargains which saw thousands of people flocking to shopping centre in Aberdeen and other Scottish cities on Boxing Day and Sunday is thought unlikely to rescue what has been a generally dismal festive trading season this year.
According to research group Springboard, a hoped-for late rush at UK stores failed to materialise and the total number of shoppers at the start of Christmas week was down 9% on a year ago.
Insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor said mild winter weather and early discounting left thousands of retailers struggling during the run-up to Christmas.
Fashion shops were impacted by the warmest December in 70 years, while Black Friday in November led a number of high-street chains – such as H&M, Gap and Jack Wills – to begin sales early, Begbies said.
This resulted in the number of UK retailers in “significant” financial distress rising to 24,737 in the final quarter of 2015, up 2% on a year ago, which Begbies said was “even more concerning, given today’s low inflationary environment and rising disposable incomes across the country”.
Traditional high street stores are particularly suffering as shoppers switch to the internet.
According to Barclaycard, in-store spending slid 2.3% in the first 10 days of December as online spending rose 9.4%.
This had left overall spending virtually flat year on year, Barclaycard said.
Bonmarche and Game Digital have already issued profit warnings and industry experts expect more retailers to follow suit as they count the cost of a poor Christmas.
Veteran analyst Richard Hyman has warned of a “shake-out” of the sector in the new year.
In the SRC’s New Year message, Mr Lonsdale said: “2015 was a year of contrasts, with shoppers benefiting from stiff competition and keen prices … but many of Scotland’s retailers facing a testing period and the industry as a whole witnessing the loss of over 3,500 retail jobs.
“Of keen interest to the industry this coming year will be the outcome of the Holyrood poll and possible EU ballot, and how this affects confidence in the economy and decision-making.”