According to the Scottish Retail Consortium, total sales in Scotland decreased by 13 per cent compared with March last year, when they had decreased by 3.7 per cent.
This is the lowest recorded figure by this sale monitor since its inception in January 1999.
It was a month of two halves – pre- and post-lockdown – with growth of nine per cent in the first three weeks of March, followed by a decline of 44 per cent in the last two weeks of the period.In March, Scottish sales decreased by 14.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with March 2019, when they had decreased by 4.1 per cent.
Total food sales increased by 12.1 per cent compared to this time last year, when they had decreased by 1.3 per cent, while total non-food sales decreased by 33.6 per cent compared to March 2019 when they decreased by 5.6 per cent.
Scottish Retail Consortium head of policy Ewan MacDonald Russell said: “These are truly dismal figures which expose just how hard retail has been hammered by coronavirus. The worst overall retail sales performance ever.
“The worst non-food sales ever. The worst fashion and footwear sales ever. March was nothing less than a shocker on Scotland’s High Streets.
“Beneath the headline figures is a tale of extreme polarisation. The first three weeks of the trading period saw unprecedented levels of grocery shopping, with household staples being stockpiled, before sales fell back into negative territory in the last two weeks.
“Across the month office supplies, toys and games, health and hygiene products, and fridges and freezers all saw stellar growth as customers adapted homes for lockdown.
“Conversely the bad news was truly rotten. Fashion and footwear sales collapsed. Large item sales crumbled as consumer confidence fell sharply. Across the board consumers appear to be reducing spending as they adapt to these new circumstances and economic concerns.
“Retail has gone through the most difficult month in a generation. Many businesses are closed, whilst those who remain trading are doing so in incredibly hard circumstances. Enormous investment has been made at pace to protect colleagues and customers, to maintain supply chains, and to expand online capacity to help those who need it. In this period retail workers have worked incredibly hard to continue to provide the vital goods families require.”