Scotland business

Scottish retailers report 'cautious optimism' on sales

Snowfall near Tomintoul
Image caption Sales of electrical goods such as heaters were strong as cold weather prevailed

The latest sales figures from Scotland's shops have indicated that February saw a third consecutive month of growth.

The Retail Sales Monitor, produced by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and advisers KPMG, showed total sales were up 0.7% on February 2012.

Like-for-like sales, however, fell by 0.1%. Taking account of inflation, sales were down 0.3% in real terms.

SRC said the results gave grounds for "cautious optimism".

A breakdown of the figures indicated year-on-year growth in food sales of 2%, with a decline in non-food sales of 0.5%.

SRC head of policy David Martin said: "This is an encouraging result with February being the third consecutive month of Scottish sales growth and the best three-month average in nearly two years.

"However, total sales didn't measure up well against those in January and in real terms were down 0.3%. This reminds us that the economy and trading environment remains fragile.

"Non-food sales continued to rebound in February, showing the strongest performance since March 2012 if pre-Christmas trading is excluded. Electricals drove much of this growth but furniture and flooring also did well."

While cold weather encouraged the sale of electric heaters, sales of spring and summer clothing were poor.

The authors of the report indicated that a broader upturn was now possible.

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: "February's performance delivered a third consecutive month of growth for the Scottish retail sector, which will give retailers reasons to feel fairly upbeat as we head into spring."

He suggested this month could be a strong one for Scottish outlets, adding: "Retailers will now be hoping for an even stronger March, buoyed by Mother's Day and Easter falling in the same month.

"The hope is that next week's budget will deliver a fillip to stimulate consumer spending in the long-term, and provide a much needed boost to the sector."

However, sales in Scotland continued to lag behind the rest of the UK.

The SRC's David Martin added: "The gap between Scottish sales growth and that for the UK as a whole widened again in February returning to what has been the norm for around two years.

"All in all, however, this is a satisfactory showing and should be welcomed with cautious optimism."

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