Scottish total retail sales declined 1.1% in May, making it the worst decline since the survey began in 1999.
Like-for-likes dropped 3.2%. According to the Scottish Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, sales were affected by the cold wet weather and consumers’ underlying uncertainty about jobs, with clothing, footwear and homewares suffering particularly.
Big-ticket purchases suffered most and were often promotion-led.
The report found that consumer confidence remains weaker in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.
Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium Fiona Moriarty said: “After the combination of unusually sunny weather, Easter and the extra bank holiday in April which boosted spending, this is a return to reality for Scottish retailers.
“People remain nervous about the economy and their personal finances. Non-food sales in particular are struggling and shoppers don’t have the confidence to spend on big-ticket items. Even heavy discounting has failed to help spending on homewares, including furniture and floorcoverings, as consumers conserve their cash for more immediate essentials.
“ Customers who bought summer shoes and clothing during the heat of April have reined back their spending and turned to their winter wardrobes again during the May wash-out.”
KPMG head of retail in Scotland David McCorquodale said: “We are most certainly seeing a continuation of a worrying trend for 2011. Across all categories, footfall and volumes are down as consumers continue to be wary as to how they spend their reduced disposable income.
“Many retailers have responded with promotions but as they themselves battle with cost inflation and upward rent reviews, the squeeze on margins and lower volumes is negatively affecting their own cashflows.
“I fear a tough road ahead for the remainder of the year where more than a long, hot summer is required.”