The Euro 2020 football championships boosted sales of televisions, food and drink, across Scotland during June, new figures show.
Fashion categories also saw higher sales last month, with the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) attributing this to people spending more time socialising.
On a like-for-like basis, stripping out the impact of shops opening and closing, total sales around the country were up by 1%, compared with-Covid sales figures for the same month two years ago.
But total sales were down by 3% after a 5.5% jump in food purchases was more than offset by a 10.1% decrease in non-food sales.
‘Covid continues to cast a shadow’
SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Scottish retail sales eked out a further modest improvement in June, the second full month since all shops were permitted to re-open, recording the best monthly performance since the onset of Covid.
“That said, (total) retail sales remained a touch below pre-pandemic levels, with the shallowest monthly decline in sixteen months – which serves to underline the protracted nature of the industry’s climb back to recovery.”
He added: “The European football championships gave a fillip to sales of televisions as well as food and drink, and fashion categories did slightly better than of late driven by the return of some aspects of socialising. That said, Covid continues to cast a shadow. ”
Retailing is still hampered by weak shopper numbers, few foreign holidays, and larger gatherings and occasions – such as weddings, Mr Lonsdale said.
Other factors suppressing growth include the absence of office workers as most people continue to work from home, he said, adding this was holding back categories such as formal wear and holiday-related purchases of beachwear and sunscreen, as well as beauty products, which often benefit from impulse buying.
He continued: “Looking forward, retailers will be buoyed by the continued success with the vaccination roll-out, and the greater re-opening of the economy and easing of restrictions, especially on events and return to offices.
“This should boost demand, particularly for those stores more reliant on the hustle and bustle of traditionally higher footfall locations in our city centres and shopping malls.
“Thousands of jobs in Scottish stores and in the supply chain ultimately depend on the ongoing support of the Scottish public, and that support over the coming weeks and months will determine the future vibrancy of our retail destinations and city centres.”
Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, which sponsors the SRC’s monthly surveys, said: “The pandemic isn’t over. Scottish retailers are still contending with restrictions and the absence of many traditional drivers of summer footfall, such as holidays abroad.
“So while the picture improved slightly, the widening gap between food and non-food sales shows many consumers continued to choose home over the high street in June.”
All eyes now on possible Level 0 boost
But any incremental successes must be welcomed in the current trading climate, Mr Martin said, adding. “This week’s nationwide drop to Level 0 could push retail sales into growth mode.
“If this happens, we will enter a new phase of the sector’s recovery from Covid-19. To sustain growth, Scottish retailers will need to consider how best to meet the demands of consumers in a post-pandemic world.”