Scotland business

Scottish retail sales rise slightly

Shopping trolley Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Experts said the increase in sales volumes in the first quarter had been largely driven by the food category

Retail sales rose slightly in Scotland in the first three months of this year but still lagged the UK as a whole.

Official figures showed the value of sales rose by 0.1% north of the border between January and March, compared with 0.3% for the UK.

Sales volumes were up by 0.7% - compared with a UK figure of 0.8%.

The Scottish Retail Sales Index also showed that the volume of sales in Scotland went up by 2.7% over the year, while the value rose by just 0.1%.

'Continuing fragility'

Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said the return to growth was encouraging, but added there was a "continuing fragility" in consumer confidence which was affecting retailers.

He urged the next Scottish government to prioritise policies which encouraged investment and expansion in the sector.

Mr Lonsdale said: "The prospects for retailers are ultimately determined by the state of the economy and their own ability to adapt and seize on the opportunities that arise.

"Our new MSPs can help by channelling their collective energies into ensuring that the retail industry, Scotland's largest private-sector employer, is even better-placed to be able to invest, expand and create jobs."

'Measured increase'

Euan Murray, of Barclays Corporate Banking in Scotland, said the "measured increase" in the volume of sales in the first quarter had been mainly driven by food sales, in contrast with the previous three months.

He added: "We are continuing to see non-food retailers benefit from a strong online offering with more value-conscious consumers comparing prices online to secure the best bargains.

"We would expect to see the online retail space continue to become ever more important as we move forward."

Recent industry figures suggested Scotland's retailers experienced a mixed month in March.

The SRC-KPMG monitor found total sales for the five weeks to 2 April were 1.3% lower than the same period last year.

The non-food category saw household goods such as furniture and flooring doing well.

But fashion and footwear registered its worst decline since May last year.

The report said that fall was influenced by the early Easter.

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