Caithness shops buck drop trend in retail trade
CAITHNESS appears to be bucking the national downturn in retail sales.
Local shops have been busy over the last month, partly as a result of the popularity of the North Coast 500 (NC 500) route.
That is in contrast to the Scottish trend which has seen the retail sector struggling over the summer with a drop in non-essential purchases.
A report by the Scottish Retail Consortium and professional services firm KPMG revealed that overall sales fell by 0.1 per cent in the five weeks to July 1 compared to the same time last year. Non-food shopping was down by 4.2 per cent, according to the findings.
The reason for downturn was said to the wet weather and the uncertainty over what happens when the UK leaves the European Union.
The report states that on a six-month basis sales of all goods fell by 0.2 per cent resulting in the first negative rate since November last year.
However, grocery sales recorded a rise of 4.2 per cent – their best growth since April 2014. The increase in the cost of imported goods caused by the fall in the value of the pound was a factor behind the improved figure, it was stated.
Figures for non-food purchases were down by 1.2 per cent over the past three months. The figures were described as “disappointing” by the Scottish Retail Consortium and were said to be caused by “squeezed household incomes and worries about the economy.”
Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “Local shops have been saying they were busy over the last month. Some of this will be down to increased visitor numbers as a result of the NC 500, but it is difficult to say whether we are bucking the trend.
“Many of the economic factors in the UK tend to filter through to the north later, so if we have a recession, we are usually the last to experience it, as it appears to take a ripple effect.
On the converse, we would be the last to come out of recession.”
She added: “Consumer credit leading up to the summer has increased across Scotland and local sources suggest this includes Caithness.
This will be down to a number of factors such as car finance and credit cards.”