Over the Christmas break you may have spotted some newspaper and media commentary that the price of a shopping basket in Scotland for food was some 5% less than in the Eurozone. Those with long memories of my academic writing will know that I have some scepticism over such comparisons, having seen how difficult they are to do and how unstable they can be, especially when taking into account products, lifestyles and exchange rates.
Courtesy of the Scottish Retail Consortium I have now got my hands on the source of this story. Interestingly for those interested in stereotypes the price of fruits, vegetables and potatoes is higher in Scotland than in the EU-15. So maybe that’s why our diet is rubbish? or is cause and effect the other way round? Alcohol and cigarette prices are so much higher in Scotland according to the report.
Anyhow, these are some of the figures in the Scottish Retail Consortium’s report on Scottish Retail: the Economic and Social Contribution (available for download here and also from the Scottish Retail Consortium). They are though, in my view, amongst the least interesting.
This 24 page report draws on data from various sources to paint a picture of the Scottish retail sector (and see the infographic at the top of this blog). Summarising wildly, I took the main messages to be that Scottish Retail is:
- In pretty good shape, all things considered;
- Still a large and important sector of the economy and of many towns;
- Undergoing a structural shift away from stores and to non-store internet and mobile shopping and retailing;
- Taxed to within an inch of its life.
Take a look at the figures and the report and make your own mind up on the points to be gleaned.
The report is perhaps surprisingly upbeat in its forward look, unless you are a food retailer and unless you stray on to the subject of taxes, and especially rates. Here, as we all know there is a major problem and a system that is in radical need of overhaul, especially as it applies to town centres and high streets. But given that, this is an optimistic report, though one that points to the changes underway in the consumer and retailer sectors.
I am not sure the elders allow me to be quite as optimistic and I see lots of problems remaining and ahead for the retail sector. But there is no doubt it is a critical sector for Scotland, in all its forms and formats; perhaps a report that celebrated this diversity more might make me more optimistic and enthused, but then it never set out to do this to be fair. The numbers paint the macro picture but it is day in, day out across the shops across Scotland that makes the difference in people’s lives, and really brings the sector to life. Only then do you get the real sense of importance this large and vital sector has in the country. And sometimes it is that immediacy and centrality of retailing that politicians forget in their abstract burdens placed on sectors?