Warm weather lifts Scottish high street sales
Scotland's retailers received a "badly-needed lift" last month as the warm weather encouraged Scottish consumers to go shopping.
The latest Scottish Retail Consortium-KPMG retail sales monitor showed that total sales in March were 1.8% higher than a year ago while like-for-like sales rose by 0.9%.
Total food sales growth picked up slightly in the month with sales rising 4.2% on last year while like-for-like food sales increased by 2.4%. However, total non-food sales were 0.4% lower than March 2011, with like-for-like sales down 0.5%.
The SRC said some sunny days helped sales clothing and footwear but consumer caution continued to hit sales of furniture and floor coverings with sales of big ticket items suffering most.
Ian Shearer, Scottish Retail Consortium Director, said: "These are the first positive sales figures since Christmas and the best results overall for nearly a year. 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."
On both like-for-like and total measures, sales were still weaker than for the whole UK.
Shearer continued: "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.
"It will take more than a few weeks of warmth to bring Scottish retailing back to full health."
David McCorquodale, head of rRetail in Scotland at KPMG, added: "The retail environment remains very tough with discounts being the main enticement used by retailers. This in turn impacts the margins and the fortunes of the retail sector, which is saddled with hefty fixed costs. For the consumer, a few days of sunshine may lift some gloom but family budgets remain under significant pressure."
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