Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Shoppers in Perth will continue to pay the same price as those in Portsmouth pledged Asda, the British retail group that is one of Scotland’s biggest employers.

British retailers had warned of higher costs were Scotland to vote for independence. Some, including John Lewis, Next and Kingfisher, had said those costs were likely to result in higher prices for shoppers north of the border, provoking accusations of “scaremongering” by Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, ahead of Thursday’s referendum.

Commenting on the vote to remain in the UK, Andy Clarke, chief executive of Asda, which has 60 stores and 20,000 employees in Scotland, said on Friday: “For Asda now, it’s business as usual. The Scottish market is important to us. We serve 1.8m customers every week and our single price file means that the price they pay in Perth is the same as they would pay in Portsmouth, irrespective of higher operating costs.”

However, the Scottish Retail Consortium made a plea for the Scottish government to be “sensible” in exercising the greater powers it was likely to obtain from further devolution.

“This vote signals the start of a fresh chapter of devolution, with greater power and more economic responsibility for Holyrood and the Scottish government. More powers, however, shouldn’t be seen as an end in themselves,” said David Lonsdale, the Consortium’s director. He cautioned that the powers should be: “implemented in a sensible and cost-effective manner” that would foster: “ a competitive and attractive environment for retailers and others to invest.”

Last week, the heads of Marks and Spencer, Kingfisher and Timpson had warned that a vote for independence would have led to “more red tape and higher costs”. That would have meant “taking the difficult decision” on whether or not to pass on those costs to consumers.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, had also sounded the alarm over prices, saying: “While there can be no certainty, there is a likelihood that prices could be higher [in the event of a yes vote].”

The employee-owned group that includes John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, said on Friday it had no comment to make following the outcome of the referendum.

But Sir Ian Cheshire, chief executive of Kingfisher, B&Q owner, said: “This result gives us the confidence to continue growing our businesses in Scotland and we will continue with our current investment plans.”

According to Nick Bubb, the independent retail analyst: “Now that the people of Scotland have rejected independence, the supermarkets can go back to worrying about the impact of food price deflation on their business and fashion retailers can go back to worrying about the impact of the warm September weather.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.