Shops in Scotland have missed out on £5.8 billion in sales over the past two years as coronavirus saw stores closed and shoppers stay away, analysis shows.
The findings, using Scottish Government and Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) data, reveal sales slumped by more than 12% in 2020 and 2021 compared to before the pandemic, with shops losing out on around £3 billion each year.
SRC director David Lonsdale has now called on the Government to implement a raft of proposals to boost Scottish shops.
He said: “The stark impact of the pandemic on Scotland’s shops can be seen in these figures.
“Weak retail sales have affected shops of all shapes and sizes, with high street sectors including fashion, footwear and beauty faring particularly poorly.
“These pressures have only been exacerbated by two successive years of Covid restrictions during the golden trading quarter from October to December.”
It comes a day after SRC and KPMG research found the retail sector is yet to climb its way back to pre-pandemic levels, with shopper footfall down 23% in December and one in six stores lying empty.
In Scotland there are 230,000 retail jobs and thousands more in the supply chain, and the industry accounts for one in every £8 of private sector commercial investment and 12% of all new firms set up each year.
As part of the plan put forward by the SRC, it has called for workers to be encouraged to return to offices, discounted public transport and parking or a high street voucher to get Scots back into shops, a grant scheme, the cap on business rates relief for retailers to be scrapped, and the publication of the Scottish Retail Strategy.
Mr Lonsdale said that without help, “shops across the country will face intolerable burdens”, and added: “Retail remains Scotland’s largest private sector employer and a key source of economic growth and tax revenue.
“There is no realistic path back to economic recovery that doesn’t involve revitalising consumer spending.
“Our proposals can play a vital part in aiding that process and putting retail renewal at the heart of Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Since the start of the pandemic, businesses including retailers have benefited from more than £4.4 billion in support from the Scottish Government and our non-domestic rates reliefs have saved businesses, including in the retail sector, around £1.6 billion since April 1, 2020.
“Through the combined impact of the upcoming retail strategy, City Centre Recovery Taskforce and the £10 million Scotland Loves Local programme, we are helping our town and city centres and local communities recover.”