Fine weather lifts Scottish retail sales
Record-breaking temperatures last month lifted Scottish retail sales to their best overall performance for nearly a year, according to a new survey.
Total sales in March were 1.8% up on the same period last year, while like-for-like sales rose by 0.9%.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said they were the first positive sales figures since Christmas.
However, sales were much weaker than the UK as a whole, while consumer confidence also lagged behind.
The consortium's sales monitor found food sales growth picked up slightly and the year-on-year decline in non-food sales narrowed.
Some sunny days helped clothing, footwear and outdoor pursuits.
But consumer caution continued to hit larger purchases.
Last month, Scotland set a new record for its highest March temperature three days in a row, while the average temperature for the month was 7C.
End Quote Ian Shearer Scottish Retail Consortium
It will take more than a few weeks of warmth to bring Scottish retailing back to full health”
SRC director Ian Shearer said: "The unusually early sunshine encouraged people to start buying summer clothes and shoes, outdoor furniture and gardening supplies. Food retailers benefited from sales of barbecue meats, salads and ice-cream.
"But, on a cautious note, the comparison is with a March which was cold and weak a year ago and the sales increase is still a real-terms fall once inflation is factored in.
"Scotland's total sales grew at only half the rate of the UK as a whole and show Scottish retailers continue to face exceptionally tough conditions, hampered by low consumer confidence and reduced footfall.
"The boost is welcome but could just be purchases which have come earlier than usual, rather than additional spend."
He added: "Some retailers face a struggle for survival as sales remain dependent on deep discounting. It will take more than a few weeks of warmth to bring Scottish retailing back to full health."
Commenting on the figures, Euan Murray, from Barclays Scotland, said: "We've seen increasing numbers of manufacturers offering attractive payment plans for big tickets items, which is helping to drive sales.
"As we look towards the summer months, retailers will be hoping for a repeat of last year's boost in tourist numbers, bringing increased footfall and spending to the Scottish high street."