May figures are the worst since records begun.
Retail sectors such as homeware are in for a difficult summer north of the border after the Scottish Retail Consortium said consumer nervousness over the economy and personal finances was being felt on the high street.
The SRC’s warning that shop owners are in for a tough time follows confirmation that the Scottish retail market has just suffered the worst fall in May sales for 12 years.
On a total basis, sales slipped 1.1%, against a 2.4% increase in May 2010, while like-for-like sales values declined 3.2% year-on-year.
The SRC said “underlying uncertainty about jobs and incomes” had resurfaced, with clothing, footwear and homeware hit hardest despite retailers’ best efforts to get shoppers reaching for their wallets.
“Even heavy discounting has failed to help spending on homewares, including furniture and floorcoverings, as consumers conserve their cash for more immediate essentials,” said Fiona Moriarty, director of the SRC.
Although retailers are responding with promotions, there are concerns that many could encounter cash flow problems as they battle with cost inflation, upward rent reviews and margin pressures.
“The tough outlook for the high street means shoppers stand to benefit from increased competition and plenty of special offers, but the outlook for retailers remains challenging,” added Moriarty.